´I almost couldn’t bare another minute’: Severe Heat Impacting Students During Fall Season

As a bead of sweat runs down Kalynns forehead, she and her classmates count the minutes down until the bell rings, releasing them from their tropical pit. Mrs. McCarty’s lesson seemed to drag on forever, she even found herself engulfed in dread. Finally the bell rings, the students are free from the fiery prison, but Mrs. McCarty must teach the rest of her classes there. When does it end?

The recent heat waves have created unbearable working environments for students and teachers throughout the campus with classrooms reaching temperatures up to 90 degrees. It comes as no surprise that student morale and engagement tend to fall as these temperatures rise.

When the air conditioning goes out in a classroom or malfunctions, it is often up to the teacher to cool the room themselves. This may mean that a classroom has just a single fan.

“Everyone in the classroom would almost fight to get a spot in front of the fan for even just a second” Junior Kalynn Lusky said, “I almost couldn’t bear another minute”

Bel Williams Slumped Over in Exhaustion in the Heat of Room 704 (Savannah Richard)

Vice Principal Elizabeth Ward even acknowledges that she herself couldn’t work in an environment so hot and humid.

“The Air Conditioning outages were really hard on everybody,” Ms. Ward said, “I know being in the heat on campus affects brains, and when your brain is dehydrated and hot no learning happens.”

Students and teachers find themselves to be feeling the same way Ms. Ward describes.

“I couldn’t even be engaged with my work,” Lusky says, “I feel like I´d listen to what Mrs. McCarty was saying, but it’d just go in one ear and out the other”

According to a Portacools article on heat stress and its impact on worker productivity, the temperature is critical to the work performance of employees.

“A research team from the University of Chicago studied the productivity levels of workers on manufacturing teams in India,” the article begins. “They found that 80 degrees was the tipping point for worker productivity. Production dropped by 3% on average for every 1.8 degrees the room temperature rose above 80 degrees. In addition, researchers found that by cooling the work environment, productivity was restored to optimal levels.”

These humid, high-temperature environments are most common in the 200 and 400 buildings, which incidentally are home to the greatest number of students.

“The AC’s most commonly shut down in buildings that are less modern or recently built,” Ms. Ward said.

They were built in the early to mid-1970s, the school itself opening in 1976. Meaning that they’ve seen many years of hot summers, and many updates to AC units and systems. They have since been fixed but because of the fact that these air conditioners shut down so often, some teachers find themselves already dreading the next summer September.

“Thankfully I’m not sweating during my lessons, I feel like I can finally focus on teaching to my best ability.” English and History teacher Ms. McCarty said, “Hopefully next year, none of us will need to deal with this again.”