Heat and Summer Ahead

As you can imagine, we have received multiple messages regarding our unseasonable heat in recent days and it seems that the 2018-2019 school year will be going out hot, albeit with a bit of easing if we believe the forecasts for the weekend and Monday.  Please know that we are fully aware of the challenges associated with these temperatures and are taking steps to address the 20-25% of our classrooms with the most significant southern exposure that has led to classroom temperatures that relatively match the outside temperatures or a bit warmer.  Too hot, we all agree.

To be clear on the data:

  • Issues of increased temperature affect about 10-15 days each school year out of our total of 180 school days.  While there is a slight upward trend, this number has been pretty consistent since my arrival in 2016.  We started more detailed tracking of this since 2017 and monitor individual classroom temperatures as well as overall systems that are monitoring our air quality.
  • The main building was constructed in 2001 and, at that time, did not have specifications or zoning that required air conditioning.  Air conditioning has been installed in selected areas over the years, primarily in closed offices and technology equipment spaces where cooling is critical to the equipment, which generates its own heat.
  • We do have systems for air handling that move air into and out of the building according to normal expectations, including the expected level of filtering that would be associated with a school facility.
  • We have extensive systems for blinds and windows that allow air movement when conditions are extreme, but this does not handle the temperatures in all areas.
  • We have installed new air handlers in recent years and the equipment chosen has the ability to be upgraded to including a cooling component.
  • We do not have sufficient infrastructure for electricity or additional ductwork for air handling to install air conditioning at this time but we do have plans to address this incrementally in the coming years if it proves feasible.
  • The Annex building included cooling only on the north half and that cooling includes some effect on the main gym area.  When it was constructed, this cooling was meant to protect instruments in the band and strings area.  This may have been short-sighted at the time and did not protect the art and storage areas of the south end of the building.

Steps we have taken in the interim:

  • We have tested new portable cooling equipment that can be deployed to classrooms.  But we have had minimal success.  Most available cooling units either overtax the electrical system or provide insufficient cooling for the size and types of spaces.
  • We deployed dozens of fans throughout the building on demand to are trying to address the key areas most impacted.  We have allowed for multiple fans in the most affected rooms and we are still adding more as requested.
  • We have adopted flexibility in classroom assignments and location of lessons and are using large spaces like the courtyards, library, MPR, and cafeteria for classroom groups.  The core areas of the school have remained cooler and comfortable.  We are also using smaller available spaces including the board room, project nest, and offices.

We appreciate all the messages and suggestions during this difficult juncture.  We are also aware that many think this may mean similar circumstances when we return in August.  It is hard to predict this and the timing of these heat waves has not been consistent.  For example, in a prior year, we experienced high temperatures in April rather than May or June.  Similarly, we have in the more distant past experienced some adverse temperatures in September after a cool and rainy August.

But, please know we are planning prudently and not unaware that temperatures may continue to increase on average and the number of days per year may also grow.  We are planning for this and do intend to implement additional changes, both for air quality and for air cooling in the near future.

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