Teachers blame Fresno Unified, energy consultant for scorching temps in classrooms

Fresno Unified classrooms are reaching temperatures of 85. Teachers are pointing the finger at district officials and a high-priced consultant.

The Fresno Teachers Association is accusing Fresno Unified School District of allowing a consultant to control temperatures in district buildings, resulting in hot classrooms during the first week of school. 

On the other hand, the district is pointing the blame at the triple digit weather hitting Fresno this work, saying the consultant is not raising classroom temperatures to take home a bigger paycheck. 


The big picture: The FTA and Fresno Unified are currently locked in contract negotiations that have so far been unfruitful, leading to the ever-growing possibility of a strike this school year. Last week Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said the district is prepared to bring in substitute teachers and pay them each $500 per day. 

  • With little progress on a new contract, FTA officials lambasted the district in a Facebook post on Tuesday, calling out a decision from the FUSD Board of Education to sign a contract with consultant Cenergistic. 
  • Per the agreement, Cenergistic provides full-time energy management services for the district with three full-time energy specialists on site who are responsible for monitoring FUSD’s HVAC systems to ensure maximum efficiency. 
  • Cenergistic staff is also on site to respond to calls from staff regarding any comfort issues in classrooms and offices. 
  • Cenergistic will take home 50 percent of any energy savings achieved over the four-year contract, which the district estimates as a $22 million total, giving the consultant $11 million. 

Teachers speak out: Over 100 people commented on the FTA’s Facebook post, including many teachers. 

  • “My classroom had nice air before it was worked on last spring,” wrote teacher Elisa Baker. “I don’t know what they did but it is now warmer in my classroom, I’m sweating, and it is so humid in there, my paper handouts and butcher paper on walls are moist. It’s like they installed a swamp cooler and took out the air conditioning.” 
  • Teacher Mary Rosenberg wrote, “My room is 88-89 degrees. It feels like a swamp. How can I effectively teach and how can students learn when it is that warm? Plus, students are complaining of headaches in the afternoon. Bet the District office is cool and comfortable.” 
  • Teacher Diane Leonard wrote, “The humidity level in my portable classroom is to the point where the bulletin board paper I spent hours hanging is sagging off of the walls, xerox copies feel damp, decorations are curling, and my clothes are sticking to me. So uncomfortable!!!” 

The district responds: Fresno Unified spokeswoman Nikki Henry told GV Wire the FTA’s claim that Cenergistic has full control of classroom temperatures “is just outright false,” adding that the district has the sole control and authority to implement or override the recommendations set by Cenergistic. 

  • Centergistic recommends thermostats be set at 74 degrees, plus or minus two degrees during school hours, and setting thermostats to 90 degrees when spaces are unoccupied. 
  • “We believe the set points are right, however, we are taking things on a case-by-case basis to override those recommendations of the unoccupied temperature set points and turning on ACs earlier in places where infrastructure is older and struggling with this level of heat,” Henry told the publication. “We expect our warmer classrooms will start to feel some cooler temperatures as they get into their classrooms in the mornings very soon.”
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