SANDWICH – Sandwich School District 430 officials confirmed there's some truth to the circulating social media posts about some teachers within the district paying $500 to have air conditioning in their classrooms for the 2020-2021 school year.
However, some of what the school district would consider to be positive actions on the district's part might have been left out of the narrative, according to district officials.
Wally Marquardt, curriculum director for Sandwich School District 430, said Friday, Aug. 7, that administration has been aware of classrooms on the third floors of Herman E. Dümmer Elementary School and Sandwich Middle School in particular getting almost unbearably hot in the first few weeks of the school year, year after year. With that in mind, especially with students having to wear face coverings returning to a hybrid instruction learning environment this year, the district actually put in air conditioners for those classrooms, he said.
Marquardt said that air conditioning, or lack thereof, has been a frequent topic of conversation for Sandwich schools for years now. This year isn't any different, despite everything else being so fluid with the pandemic, he said.
“But, financially, it’s been out of question to do for the whole district,” Marquardt said.
Marquardt said it was his understanding that it was asked during a teachers' union meeting whether teachers across the district that didn't have classrooms on the top floors of Dümmer and the middle school could buy and install a unit in their own classrooms. He said the answer was that they could, as long as the unit is uniform with the district-provided units and, thus, follows electrical code – and the $500 would cover the purchase of the additional units and installation by district maintenance.
“It’s not something that there is opposition to” on district administration's end, Marquardt said.
The update comes after community members donated enough money for 11 classroom air conditioning units within the last week, according to fundraisers on Thursday.
Amber Harmon, a fifth grade teacher at Herman E. Dümmer Elementary School, initially started crowdsourcing through a July 30 Facebook post to raise enough money for six air conditioning units, which would cover the homeroom classrooms within the school building. From there, the fundraising effort grew to include trying to outfit 50 classrooms with air conditioning districtwide, she wrote in a July 30 Facebook comment.
Harmon wrote in a Facebook Messenger conversation with Record Newspapers that teachers still are working to collect money for the units for as many classrooms as possible across the district. She wrote there still are more donations coming.
"I will say that our Sandwich community has really rallied around our staff and students," Harmon wrote. "We have had a generous amount of donations from local businesses as well as community members."
One of those businesses was A&B Exteriors, a residential contractor in Sandwich. In a July 30 Facebook post, the company wrote they committed to donating enough money for six out of the 50 total units.
Tricia Kleckner, co-owner of A&B Exteriors, said she personally is friends with a lot of teachers within the local school district and her children have graduated from or still are in the district. While she didn't have the total off the top of her head, she said, there have been quite a bit of donations dropped off since the business started collecting donations to pass along to school officials.
“We’re lucky in Sandwich, because the community within Sandwich is very giving and supportive of each other in the schools,” Kleckner said.
According to the plan, students will be divided alphabetically into groups, with one group attending school in-person Mondays and Wednesdays, the second group attending school Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will be reserved for remote learning across the district.
District staff members wrote in responses to a districtwide survey they were concerned about students and staff wearing masks in the summer heat, especially for 90 degree days in late August and early September.
Harmon deferred additional comment to Sandwich School District 430 Superintendent Rick Schmitt. Schmitt did not directly return a request for comment from Record Newspapers on Thursday, but Marquardt said Schmitt deferred comment to him on Friday.
Shelly Tripp and Shane Connell, co-presidents for the Sandwich Classroom Teachers' Association teachers' union, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Record Newspapers on Thursday.
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