Hawaii teachers, students call for cool classrooms
HONOLULU (AP) — Stifling classroom temperatures that routinely reach the 90s are leading Hawaii public school teachers and students to call for relief.
They say high classroom temperatures inhibit learning and they’re planning a Sept. 26 rally at the Capitol to again seek air conditioning in classrooms, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/18DmQhX) reports.
“Schools across the mainland are closing because their classrooms got into the high 80s and low 90s, yet that is a daily occurrence in Hawaii schools,” said Corey Rosenlee, a social studies teacher at Campbell High School in Ewa Beach.
“A classroom at Campbell was over 95 degrees the other day,” he said. “If you are a teacher in a classroom with that kind of environment, it’s so difficult for the kids to learn. The heat is unbearable.”
Student Kaio Akiyama, a junior at Campbell, said the heat saps students’ concentration.
“The teachers are doing a really great job here, but the heat, it does get to the mind,” Akiyama said. “We get drained focusing on the heat rather than the lesson being taught.”
Before high school, he attended Ewa Makai Middle School, which features air conditioning and natural day lighting. Just 12 public schools out of 255 campuses are fully air conditioned, said Department of Education spokeswoman Dara Young.
The department in 2007 estimated the cost of air conditioning in all schools at $1 billion. It has instead worked to cool the hottest schools. Pohakea Elementary in Ewa Beach last summer became fully air conditioned. Lokelani Intermediate in Kihei is midway through a conversion.
Young said the cost of air conditioning a school can range from $3.5 million to $10 million. Afterward, electric bills increase significantly.
Rosenlee is teaching his year in an air conditioned room but is committed to changes for other schools.
“The big question we have to decide as a society is, What is the value that we place on public education and should all children regardless of whether they are rich or poor deserve a quality learning environment?” Rosenlee said.
Air conditioning, he said, is not a luxury.
The Department of Education is pursuing other ways to cool classrooms. Ceiling fans will be installed in 150 classrooms on the Leeward Coast of Oahu, Young said.