By Peter Stevenson
SECONDARY teachers union OELMEK is calling on all headmasters to disobey orders from the education ministry to remov air-conditioning (AC) units from classrooms and staff rooms.
In a statement, the union condemned the ministry’s decision as provocative and called on Education Minister, Kyriacos Kenevezos to intervene.
“If the ministry truly wants to save money then there are many ways to do so, and the union is more than willing to give suggestions to this end,” the statement said.
Head of OELMEK, Andreas Taliadoros told the Cyprus Mail that before any decision was made by the ministry, the unions should have been consulted to try to find middle ground.
“It’s easy to make decisions when you’re sitting in a comfy air-conditioned room,” he said. Taliadoros added that an arrangement could have been made to give teachers the opportunity to have the AC units in their classrooms turned on during specific periods.
“During the winter months teachers are ordered not to turn on their heaters past 11am so I’m sure we could have come to a compromise for the AC units during the hot summer months,” he said.
Taliadoros said he felt technical services needed to find other ways to save money by using renewable energy sources at schools before taking decisions which would make both teachers and students suffer the heat.
A circular was sent out by the technical services of the ministry to the heads of each school board on May 23 detailing which rooms AC units and heaters were permitted.
These include the headmaster’s office, the school secretary’s office but only when they work during July and August, special education classrooms, school amphitheatres and auditoriums and the school nurse’s room. AC units and heaters are also permitted in the server room and prefabricated classrooms.
Heaters are allowed in areas where there is no central heating system. All-day schools are exempt from the rules and are permitted to use AC units in the afternoons.
“OELMEK calls on the headmasters of schools to prevent the removal of air-conditioning units until the subject is fully discussed with the minister,” the statement concluded.
According to head of technical services, Andreas Pattichis, the final decision on whether any AC units and heaters would be removed or would remain at schools would be made by the finance ministry. Pattichis said that some small schools receive electricity bills of €2,000 a month, which is a large chunk of their annual funding.
“Just because there is a plug on the wall people think they can install AC units but what they don’t understand is that firstly they need to get permission from technical services and then from the Electricity Authority,” he added.
Pattichis added that AC split units were not designed to be used in packed areas like classrooms as they cannot filter the air.
“The only system that would work in such circumstances is a central climate system that is installed when the building is constructed,” he said.
According to Pattichis schools have been designed to be environmentally friendly and remain cool in the summer and warm in winter.
The biggest problem caused by AC units and heaters, he said, is that most schools do not have the electricity capacity to sustain them on top of the load they are already carrying, causing power cuts.