Chattering teeth disrupt STHS learning |

Chattering teeth disrupt STHS learning

A delay in installing the heating system at South Tahoe High School has left students shivering during their studies but officials said the warmth should return today.

Theater students receive the brunt of the cold, which is slightly warmer than a meat locker. They bring blankets from home to keep warm in their classes. Besides seeing their breath in class, students said they have to deal with uprooted nails on stage, dangling light fixtures and a leaky roof.

“When it’s this cold it’s hard to function,” said a bundled Heather Campbell.

“It’s atrocious,” said Nick Valencia, a sophomore who brought his Oakland Raiders’ blanket. “It’s actually colder today than it was yesterday when it was snowing. It won’t warm up all day.”

“The only time it gets warm is when all the stage lights are on but that doesn’t really help because class isn’t during production,” said David Hartzell.

The school’s $5 million modernization project during the summer included installing a new heating system, but material delays did not allow workers to turn the heat on sooner.

The students were expected to leave their blankets at home today because two overhead heaters are expected to provide warmth to the drama students, said Steve Morales, the district facilities manager.

“We’ve got the heat on right now,” Morales said Wednesday evening. “We have the heat running at this time in the theater.”

Sue Hartzell, a parent of a junior drama student and a nurse at Barton Memorial Hospital, said besides causing hypothermia, cold decreases the body’s immune system. It can also constrict the lungs and cause an asthma attack for students with that condition.

Hartzell learned of the condition of the theater during back-to-school night this year. Her daughter, who graduated from the school last year, said the theater would flood at least once a year. The students would then have to practice in the music room across the hall, she said.

“Basically it’s a safety issue,” Hartzell said. “When I send my kids to school I expect them to be safe. The school should provide basic life necessities: safety, warmth and light. Students shouldn’t be exposed to nails and bring blankets to class to keep warm. If the football equipment wasn’t in good condition, it would be replaced, I’m sure of it, but because it’s the drama department they get the last in funding.”

Theater productions haven’t been scheduled until January. Liz Niven, the drama teacher, is hoping the conditions will be fixed by then.

A concerned Morales visited the high school Wednesday, hunted for nails and found none. He said he hasn’t heard of any news regarding leaky roofs or dangerously hanging light fixtures. Two years ago the roof was reconditioned, Morales said.

In the summer, a sink flooded for several hours before people knew what was going on, Morales said. The flooding could have warped the hardwood covering of the stage and caused the nails to uproot.

“I walked in (the theater) and didn’t know what the condition was since the flooding,” Morales said. “I did not see any hazard in there.”

The next major project for the high school is Phase 2, where the theater and other buildings will be improved. However, it hasn’t been approved, designed or funded.

Valencia, the student with the Raiders blanket, said a nail ripped a chunk from the side of his Vans. Another student said a nail ripped a portion of her pants. But regarding the newfound heat, Valencia said he was relieved.

“You’re shivering, you’re tired and you just want to go to sleep,” he said.

— Contact William Ferchland at

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