TRAVERSE CITY — Chilly temperatures inside some Traverse City classrooms may have violated state licensing requirements for childcare facilities.
Four Traverse City Area Public schools — including some with pre-kindergarten programs — remained far below normal temperatures for at least part of the day Wednesday. The mercury outside fell below 40 degrees and snow flurries filled the sky.
Some reports indicated indoor thermometers at those TCAPS facilities dropped to near or below the 65-degree mark required by state childcare licensing rules.
TCAPS Superintendent Stephen Cousins said district officials will investigate and may need to file a report with the state.
“That’s something I’ll have to go back and look at,” Cousins said.
Michigan’s Department of Human Services requires childcare facilities, including prekindergarten programs operated by local school districts, to maintain temperatures at “a safe and comfortable level,” according to DHS licensing rules.
That means “indoor temperatures shall be at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit in child use areas at a point 2 feet above the oor,” the licensing rules state.
DHS officials could not be reached for comment.
Two of the colder TCAPS schools run preschool programs.
Children as young as 3 attend Central Grade School, Principal Robert Peters said.
Peters said he didn’t know how cold classrooms the were Wednesday morning. But Kelly Rye, the mother of a kindergarten student, guessed the temperature inside the school was between 50 and 55 degrees when she dropped her daughter off .
Cousins said Paul Mahon, the district’s director of capital projects and maintenance, checked digital temperature displays in the preschool classrooms at Central Grade School on Tuesday and Wednesday at about 8:30 a.m. The readouts showed temperatures between 65 and 66 degrees both days, Cousins said.
“Whether they dipped below that at other times, I don’t know,” he said.
Peters said teachers allowed students to wear “whatever clothing they needed” to stay warm as the boiler system heated up, and by Wednesday afternoon the temperature inside the school was comfortable.
Glenn Loomis Elementary School, home of TCAPS Montessori program, has a toddler program for children as young as 18 months, according to the school’s website.
Cousins said Glenn Loomis’ preschool room doesn’t have a digital temperature display, but he said a school custodian estimated the building’s temperature in the mid-60s.
“Without a thermometer or a digital display he doesn’t know for sure,” Cousins said.
Glenn Loomis Montessori Director Lisa VanLoo could not be reached for comment.
Boilers failed to fire Wednesday at the district’s old Long Lake Elementary school building. That facility doesn’t host prekindergarten programs; it’s being rented to the charter Greenspire School.
Sarah Johnson, head of the Greenspire School, said she spent the day bundled in her office because of the chilly temperatures inside the building.
“As we speak it is 53 degrees in the room I have been sitting in all day,” Johnson said Wednesday afternoon.
Classrooms where Greenspire students studied were warmer -- probably about 60 degrees -- but Johnson said she told TCAPS officials she would cancel today’s classes if the heat remained off.
“It’s just that uncomfortable,” Johnson said.
TCAPS officials started turning on boilers at the districts’ 27 facilities on Oct. 14, according to a boiler start-up schedule.
Paul Soma, the district’s associate superintendent of finance & operations, said only two district employees can start the systems. The process includes a 100-point checklist and takes up to eight hours for each boiler.
The sudden arrival of cold temperatures this month caught district officials off-guard, Soma said.
“This has been a pretty intense cold swing,” Soma said. “We couldn’t do anything at that point to speed up the schedule.”
TCAPS officials expected boilers to be running at old Long Lake, Glenn Loomis and Central High School, which was also without heat, by Wednesday night.