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Rolly: Utah teachers are fighting to keep kids cool

Published August 31, 2012 3:23 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Conservatives in the Utah Legislature and their puppet masters in the Utah Eagle Forum are fond of demeaning public school teachers — constantly proposing ways to get rid of the "bad teachers" and formulating ways to rate their effectiveness, always focusing on the negative.

But some of those legislators ought to spend a day or so in the classrooms of, say, Skyline High School, which does not have air conditioning and has many classrooms stuffed with as many as 40 students dealing with 90-degree-plus temperatures.

Many teachers purchased swamp coolers with their own money because the district can't afford them. They bring large bottles and jugs to carry water for filling the coolers.

Some of those teachers bristled a bit when they went to pre-school-year workshops at the Granite School District offices and had to bring sweaters because the air conditioning rooms there quite chilly.

One teacher recently lamented to secretaries in the front office that the swamp cooler she had purchased years earlier was broken and she didn't have the personal funds to replace it. She was concerned for her students, who were suffering in the heat while she was trying to keep their attention on the subject.

She was overheard by Skyline principal Doug Bingham, who said nothing to her at the time.

But Bingham showed up in her classroom a couple of days later with a bag of tools.

He fixed the swamp cooler.

Ghost of Christmas past? In a classic case of the past coming back to haunt you, state and local governments and school districts in Utah will be taking a financial hit beginning next fiscal year because of what happened four years ago.

The Utah Retirement System has notified government leaders that, because earnings from its investments have not met projections, it is increasing the contribution rates employers must pay the system by nearly 2 percent of their total payroll.

So, while governments and school districts pay an average of about 20 percent of their payroll into the retirement system now, that will increase to nearly 22 percent beginning July 1, 2013.

It's too early to assess the fall-out, but its not unreasonable to expect some kind of impact on the residents of those local governments and school districts in the form of tax hikes or a hit in the delivery of services.

And they can thank the economic melt-down and Wall Street collapse of 2008.

"The year 2008 was a disastrous year for market performance," said Robert Newman, executive director of the Utah Retirement System. Because projections are spread for five years, even though some years since have seen decent returns, the 2008 debacle leaves the fund in a situation that a rate increase is necessary.

Can't be too careful: The hyper-sensitivity of health officials to the threat of cryptosporidium resulted in the shut-down Tuesday of the popular Seven Peaks Resort in Salt Lake County, locking hundreds of swimmers out during one of the hottest days in August.

Salt Lake County spokesman Jim Braden said the closure was initiated by Seven Peaks after county officials alerted the resort. Doctors are required to notify the county health department when they treat patients with the gastrointestinal illness who confirm they had been at a public swimming facility.

The pool was treated during the closure and Braden says "Seven Peaks is probably the safest place you can swim right now."

prolly@sltrib.com