A few weeks ago, when the mercury spiked, so did the tempers of coastal parents. Several complained that their children were getting ill and that they felt the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) needed to do more immediately to address a near-crisis situation.
Now that the extreme heat is back, so is parental pressure calling upon the district to take prompt action to change district policy for schools without A/C.
“You must immediately consider changing your protocol for calling minimum days with regard to the heat,” said Heather Worms, a parent of two Pacific Beach Elementary students. “Even though the board of education has voted unanimously to put A/C in all classrooms across the district, the truth is this will cost hundreds of millions and take several years to install.
“The one thing you can do now is create a new protocol for schools and classrooms without A/C during extreme heat days, like the ones we are currently experiencing and have been again for the past four school days,” continued Worms. “Our classrooms in the Mission Bay Cluster are reaching over 90 degrees again this past week, and our children and teachers are suffering. Learning is certainly not at its highest level in these conditions… This district is not holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to educating their students in a safe and healthy learning environment.”
“We are absolutely sympathetic to what teachers and students are experiencing with this atypical hot weather: It is definitely uncomfortable,” said Ursula Kroemer, SDUSD’s chief public information officer.
Noting the SDUSD board in December of 2013 approved a plan to outfit 2,000 of the district’s “hottest” classrooms at 68 schools with A/C, Kroemer added that an expedited “Classroom Air Conditioning” plan was developed to conduct school site assessments, develop designs and coordinate a fast-track review process for putting A/C in the hottest schools that don’t have it.
“Several measures were used to accelerate the installations, which began in 2014,” said Kroemer. “To date, classroom A/C installations have been completed at 43 of the schools. Installations are under way at another 15 schools. The rest of the schools in this accelerated plan are expected to be completed by the end of this 2015 calendar year.”
Mike (Michael) McQuary, SDUSD trustee of District C, said it’s entirely appropriate for parties involved to be “concerned about the high temperatures in our classrooms.
“The district is taking action to mitigate the current condition as best we can while we prepare to install air conditioning in all classrooms and major instructional spaces across the district,” McQuary said.
McQuary said the school board voted 5-0 in September to direct the superintendent to examine the hot-weather experience of the first week of school; develop a school-by-school plan to deal with future events of high and extreme temperatures; and submit a plan for placing A/C in all classrooms across the district.
“In the meantime, our district, which has over 6,000 classrooms and 200 school sites, is working with each school principal to implement hot-weather plans that meet their unique location, construction, landscape and environmental needs,” said McQuary. “Our challenge is to get through the hot days we have at the moment until we can adjust the district’s master plan for facilities and construction and schedule the installation of appropriate A/C systems in each classroom in every school.”
Meanwhile, Worms said the heat situation has gotten to be nearly critical at some coastal schools without A/C.
“A science classroom at Pacific Beach Middle School recently was more than 96 degrees,” she said. “How do you expect to get our students ready for high school, college and careers if they lose so many hours to days like this?… What about our special needs students? They sit in hot classrooms, then many have to ride home on buses without A/C that are over 100 degrees. … Help our children and our teachers before something really bad happens to one of our children or staff members.”