South Medford High School choir teacher Andrea Brock copies the score to “Once Upon A Mattress” in the school’s printing room by window light. She’s passing out only the parts students absolutely need and printing them on the blank sides of used paper. - Bob Pennell

A little bit here, a little bit there

In the copy room at South Medford High School, a choir teacher and a math student prepare materials for their respective classes by the light from a window.

The lights are switched off in the room looking out at South Oakdale Avenue as teacher Andrea Brock prints out music on the blank sides of used paper for the school's spring production, "Once Upon A Mattress."

"Normally I would have given students the whole score," Brock says. "This year, I'm just handing out snippets, only the parts they need to perform their part to cut back on printing."

Curtailing electricity and paper use are just two of the measures Medford campuses are employing to cut down on expenses. In spite of the penny-pinching, the district of about 12,000 pupils expects to cut 13.5 days from this school year to balance the budget, short about $7.5 million in state funding.

"It's starting to feel like the 1970s energy crisis when President Carter said to turn the lights out and wear sweaters," says Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long from his Monroe Street office, where he also worked by the sunlight from a window.

"Anything we do, even if it's small, accumulates and might even mean an extra day of school."

Across the district, some field trips have been canceled.

For instance, a Wilson Elementary second-grade field trip to ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum in Ashland was scrubbed to save on bus fuel costs, says Principal Pamela Zaklan. Instead, the school has brought in science presentations, such as live bugs, she says.

District employees are prohibited from using small appliances in their classrooms such as coffee machines, microwaves, small refrigerators and space heaters.

"It had been beautiful weather, and the day we got rid of the space heaters it was cold and the boilers went out," says South Medford Assistant Principal Donnie Frazier. "We had teachers dressed in layers."

In a South Medford English classroom, teacher Mary Wieczorek posted a yellow handwritten sign on an electric tea maker notifying students that the tea they used to sip during literary studies is no longer available because of district budget cuts.

"I provided the tea bags, and there were teacups that my teacher's assistant would wash," Wieczorek says. "It was kind of cozy and nice. The students were disappointed, but it's a small sacrifice obviously."

Wieczorek and her students aren't the only ones missing the freshly steeped tea.

"I had to give up my Mrs. Tea," a small electric tea maker, Zaklan says.

Zaklan now brings her tea and coffee to work in a thermos.

Material and supplies budgets have been slashed by 20 percent at the district's campuses.

Some teachers say they have resorted to electronic methods such as e-mails and interactive whiteboards to share information with their students and colleagues to conserve paper.

"I send out e-mails to teachers with literary or writing strategies, so instead of putting that information on papers in their teacher boxes, I send the information electronically," says Jamie Leach, a South Medford instructional coach.

Employees and students are expected to shut off computers and switch off lights when not in use.

"Students understand the need and they are happy to help out as well," says Ginny Hicks, principal at Griffin Creek Elementary School. "I think our children are sensitive to the economic situation because many of them have been impacted at home."

Heating and air-conditioning are turned off in unoccupied school buildings unless indoor temperatures drop below 55 or rise above 85 degrees, says Mark Button, Medford schools facilities manager. New heating and air-conditioning systems in recently upgraded buildings also have helped with energy efficiency in the district, which spends $1.8 million a year on electricity and heating.

Back at South Medford, junior David Smith cuts sheets of paper from large rolls by the light of a window in an otherwise dim copy room.

David said he doesn't mind the absence of the bright overhead lights.

"I ate lots of carrots, so I have good night vision," he quips.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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