It’s warmer than usual in Santa Maria this week, and for many teachers, it’s especially hot in classrooms with no air conditioning.
At the Santa Maria Bonita School District, about 30 percent of the classrooms lack AC.
” That means that thousands of kids are being taught in classrooms without air conditioning, ” said Luke Laurie, a science teacher at El Camino Jr. High.
Laurie says students are unable to concentrate in the heat, while some have suffered nose bleeds, and other signs of heat exhaustion. He says even the school electronics are taking a hit.
” [On Tuesday] there were dozens of classrooms that had more than 90 degrees, and that actually exceeds the safe operating temperature for many of the pieces of technology that we’re working with, like iPads and Chrome Books, ” he said.
Laurie says at El Camino Jr. High, where he’s been teaching for more than two decades, about half of the classrooms have no AC.
” A lot of our classrooms create a closed environment where the temperature can rise to beyond uncomfortable levels, but potentially hazardous levels. Heat stroke is possible, ” he said.
However, the school district says installing AC in every classroom is a long shot.
” Y ou can’t take money out of students’ textbooks and put it towards air conditioning, ” said Maggie White, a spokeswoman for SMBSD .
White says adding a cooling system to the remaining 109 classrooms throughout the district that don’t have AC would cost $54 million.
” [It] is a huge amount of money, that’s more than a junior high would cost, ” she said.
White explains the reason is many of the old classrooms would need retrofitting.
” Many of our older schools and older campuses don’t even have enough electrical power to run AC units, ” she said. ” If the state would provide additional funding for retrofitting for air conditioning, or modernizing buildings, that would be amazing. But at this point, the state doesn’t do that any longer. ”
“There’s a cost attached to that, I understand that, but we believe our students are worth it, ” said Laurie. ” I think it would create an environment where all of our students and all of our staff are equal and safe.”
Since 2015, the district added 76 classrooms with AC (which includes 25 newly-built classrooms, 25 portable classrooms, and 26 older classrooms that were converted to have AC).
The district also encourages teachers to look at other alternatives, such as having class at air-conditioned sites like the library or computer lab on warmer days.