Heat shutoff has Yokota students bundling up, heater sales booming
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Students at Yokota’s high school and middle school have been advised to bundle up with the heat turned off, effective Friday, to help the base save money while dealing with sequestration cuts.
Sales of space heaters are booming with the heat getting cut off, building by building, and nighttime temperatures falling into the 30s.
In a letter to parents, DODEA Japan District superintendent Lois Rapp said elementary schools would operate with minimal heating. Officials hope weather forecasts prove accurate and warmer conditions arrive over the weekend.
“We recommend that middle and high school students dress appropriately in case the classrooms and other facilities are a little too cold for them,” Rapp wrote. “By bringing a light jacket to school with them, the children can remain comfortable during the No Heat/No Cool Season.”
The schools’ move follows the shut-off of heat in on-base homes and offices at Yokota this week, about a month earlier than in years past. Officials at Yokosuka Naval Base have said heat there will also be shut off this month.
Cutting energy use is one way officials are trimming costs to cope with $40 billion across-the-board defense cuts, which took effect March 1 after politicians in Washington failed to agree on taxation and spending reforms.
At Yokota, the lack of central heating in people’s homes means residents are scurrying to find ways to take the chill off.
Yokota BXtra manager Michael Tura said Friday that people have been snapping up space heaters since the energy-saving plan was announced.
“Yesterday we sold 15 to 20,” Tura said.
Air Force spouse Heather Bollinger said her apartment, on the top floor of a tower block at Yokota, isn’t too cold, even though the heat has been cut off. It’s a different story in a neighbor’s home where she works as a nanny.
“It’s freezing and there’s a baby,” she said. “He’s only 7 months old and his little hands are frozen.”
Base officials have not announced when air-conditioning will be turned on in homes and offices, but residents are anticipating an uncomfortable start to summer.
“We are worried about the humidity,” Bollinger said. “It is going to be disgusting.”
Long-time base residents advised her to buy a dehumidifier, she said.
Rapp’s letter doesn’t say when school air conditioners might be turned on, but parents and teachers at a meeting of Yokota High School’s School Advisory Council already were worrying that the government’s budget woes mean they’ll stay off until June.
If that happens, the schools need to find a comfortable place for students to take their final exams, said a teacher attending the Tuesday meeting.
“You can’t have these kids testing in 90-degree classrooms,” Yokota School Advisory Council president Lacy Hogan said.