Get up and do something. That’s the topic for this month’s Editor’s Page and the subject of a recent letter that we received.

Get up and do something.

That’s the topic for this month’s Editor’s Page and the subject of a recent letter that we received. In fact, the letter, which you can read at the end of this page, is what prompted this month’s column.

Back in February, I wrote an editorial to point out what seems to be a reoccurring phenomenon (“Schools get short end of the heating duct”). Public schools all over the country are struggling to adequately heat their buildings.

When I wrote the original column, it was the middle of winter, when heating is essential. And yet, I kept reading articles about school buildings with broken heating systems that went days, if not weeks, before being fixed.

For many of these schools, the HVAC systems had just been neglected. As many people know, especially during these uncertain economic times, public schools have only so much cash to go around. Public schools will probably always be in need of more money to help educate and provide for pupils.

Most schools do the best they can. And often, the HVAC system goes unnoticed. It’s not that school officials want students to freeze during the winter months; they just take the heating system for granted. Many people do. Homeowners will usually forget about their furnace until they need it.

Budget crunch

So here we are as a nation in the middle of one of the greatest economic declines in history. Everyone is tightening their belts, including the public schools. So what is the answer?

Well, that is what I asked last February, and the letter we received from California resident Derk Akerson answered it pretty simply.

You can’t wait around for government to solve the problems. If you want something done, you have to take action in your own hands.

As sheet metal workers or HVAC technicians and contractors, you have the ability to help the schools in ways other people can’t.

You know that saying, “It takes a village”? Well, now is a good a time to put that saying to use. If your local school is in need of some heating help, step in. Provide the assistance that you know you can give.

If you hear that the school in your area is struggling to keep their building heated, volunteer to take a free look at the system.

It may seem like a lot to ask, especially for contractors who are busy running their own companies. But there are benefits. The most obvious is that you are helping to ensure that young people are learning in the best environment possible. We complain so much about the public schools, so why not pitch in and help out? It will make you feel good to know that you are doing your part.

If that’s not enough reason to get you involved, how about the benefit it could have for your company. Volunteering your time in the community gets your business name out to the public. Customers will become familiar with your name. And many of those customers may feel more comfortable doing business with a company that is known to volunteer its time in charitable ways.

Finally, if those reasons don’t suit you, think about the advantages of being involved in the school system. One of the biggest challenges in the sheet metal industry is finding qualified workers. Having a visible presence in the public school system gives you the opportunity to show young people what the industry is all about. Who knows? Maybe your help will let them see how the sheet metal and HVAC industry is a viable career path.

James J. Siegel is associate editor of Snips magazine.

Letters - Public must step up to help schools

You asked for answers to the school heating and cooling problems in your column (“Schools get short end of the heating duct,” Editor’s Page, February). I may not have the answer, but I have some thoughts and suggestions.

We must step up and take control. We cannot and should not depend upon the government to cure all that ails us. The government has enough on its plate.

Who occupies these school buildings? Students, teachers and administrators. If the school buildings have no heat, possibly the district offices should shut down their systems, too. The cost savings could be used to provide repairs or replacements.

Right now there are many people out of work. It’s time to step up and work together. It’s time to organize this work force and set differences aside. There are many recently retired people that could be an advantage.

We would be providing a service that needs to be done and is not being done. A bake sale will not provide new equipment. We need to find people that care about America and that will help to provide equipment needed for little or no profit. Possibly the workers in the manufacturing plants could volunteer some of their time to build the equipment.

It’s an investment in your community. It’s an investment in America.

Organization would have to be worked out, but it can be done. There is a labor force available. We all need these students in school - they are the future of America. They are our future. Let’s support them.

Government budgets will be of little help. The red tape alone is a large stumbling block. Special elections or bond measures cannot help us in a timely manner. Pull together. We need engineers, architects, suppliers, insurers, and skilled workers. They are out there. They have the time. I have the time.

Derk Akerson

Salinas, Calif.