Record high room temperatures not cool, pose health hazard

Mackenzie Clarke , Staff Reporter

Record high temperatures in August and September made classroom environments unbearable. Because the majority of classrooms at Sequoia lack air conditioning, many students are forced to spend afternoon block-periods in uncomfortably hot rooms learning as usual without disruption.

“It makes teaching difficult because there’s more breaks that need to be implemented,” IB English teacher Nichole Vaughan said. “The kids have to get up to go get water, and when I see the looks on the[ir] faces, I would definitely say learning is not happening as effectively as it needs to be.”

Along with the heat, Vaughan’s sixth period class has 38 students packed into the room. When students are uncomfortable, so are teachers.

Some, including history teacher Lydia Cuffman, made the decision to move their class into cooler classrooms on hotter days. However, moving into air-conditioned rooms proved to be problematic.

“It just took up so much time when we moved classrooms, and we honestly were not productive at all,” junior Victoria Huber said. “By the time we got ourselves arranged [we] wasted 15 minutes of time, and we couldn’t use any of the resources we needed to.”

This temperature problem is not only a hindrance to learning and teaching, but also a possible health risk. Studies conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics show that children and adolescents are at an elevated risk of heat-related illness, and seven high schools in the Campbell Union High School District enforced required minimum days on Sept. 9 and 10 due to unsafe temperatures in classrooms.

11 days since August 18 have exceeded 90 degrees (Week of Sep. 7 through the 11th was over 90 degrees every single day)

Out of about 100 classrooms at Sequoia, only about one-third have air conditioning 

10 teachers in total have moved their classes into available air-conditioned rooms

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends temperature control in workplace environments to be in the range of 68 to 76 degrees, so if there is a distinct range for occupational environments, why not for schools?

“It’s really hard because I’m very sensitive to heat,” sophomore Hannah Marcus said. “I had to leave the class a couple times to go get water or just walk around so I wouldn’t feel so suffocated. Marcus is in Max Friedmann’s 6th period Pre calculus class, which gets particularly hot due to its location in the math wing and lack of fans or air conditioning.

The California Educational Code, a collection of state laws pertaining to California schools, states that classrooms must maintain internal temperatures within reasonable ranges, and over the past two decades many groups, including the statewide Parent Teacher Association, tried to push for an actual temperature range in the Ed. Code. This ambiguity has left room for question as to when temperatures become unreasonable. However, a fix is not simple.

“If we’re devoting money to adding air conditioning, we’re taking that away from programs, Administrative Vice Principal Gary Gooch said.

While school-wide air conditioning is the ideal solution to many, the actual execution is costly and daunting.

“Something has to be done,” added Gooch. “I’m just not sure what that is, what form it will take and when it will happen.”