If you think the cost of heating your home has gone up, imagine keeping a 300,000-square-foot school building warm.

With heating costs predicted to increase 77 percent or more this year, school districts in the northern United States report taking drastic measures to keep costs down, from turning down thermostats in classrooms to possibly reducing the school week.

In Madison County, however, administrators said they should be able to keep schools warm, but offered some tips for keeping youngsters safe as the temperature drops.

“We’ve installed high-efficiency boilers, and that has helped us in a lot of different ways,” Anderson Community Schools Superintendent Tim Long said. “This year, we’ve had very, very few problems.”

In older school buildings, he said, heat is sometimes distributed unevenly, creating patches of warm and cold.

But with the new school buildings and new boilers, “we’ve been able to maintain the environment we’re accustomed to,” Long said.

Classrooms are generally kept at about 68 to 72 degrees.

In Alexandria, state funding cuts force administrators to make every dollar count.

“I’m not sure we’ve felt the brunt of (higher heating costs) yet,” Superintendent John McFarren said. “I’m waiting for the heating bill at home, and we’re doing the same for the school.”

But when the increased price do hit, “it will have an effect, no doubt about it,” McFarren said.

Outside school buildings, parents should “make sure kids are dressed appropriately before school,” Long said.

And even if it isn’t stylish, “make sure they have a coat.”

A warm sweater may also be a good move, since most school dress codes don’t allow kids to wear coats in school.

Layers are also a good way to stay warm, and make sure kids wear a hat.

“It’s been a cold December,” McFarren said. “We will probably feel the full-scale impact when we get this month’s billing.”

Associated Press contributed to this story.

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