Students rally at Hawaii Capitol for cool schools
HONOLULU (AP) — Nearly 500 high school students and teachers rallied Thursday at the Hawaii Capitol and called for legislators to cool off classrooms.
Students from Campbell High School in Ewa Beach carried signs and said air conditioning is needed to improve conditions for learning.
“It gets like 90 degrees in the classroom,” said junior Precious Guieb. “It makes you feel like fainting or falling asleep.”
Campbell junior Amanda Thirion said she had attended schools in Oklahoma, California and Louisiana. All had had air conditioning.
“Never have I seen this lack of concern about the student environment,” she said. “It isn’t a coincidence that my hottest class is also my lowest grade.”
Just a dozen of Hawaii’s 255 public school campuses have central air conditioning. Another is midway through a conversion.
The Department of Education has installed ceiling fans and solar-powered ventilators to try to improve conditions.
“I empathize with everybody who has to sit in a hot classroom,” said Ray L’Heureux, assistant superintendent in charge of school facilities and support services. “We’ve got to get that turned around.”
Over seven years, four campuses have received air conditioning. Campbell High is fourth in line.
The rally was a field trip for the students. They’re making a yearlong effort to encourage funding for air conditioning.
Science teacher Francesca DePasquale said students measure temperatures and humidity in multiple classrooms at different times and analyze the data.
“It’s generally in the high 80s, sometimes 90s,” she said. “It’s so difficult to function or concentrate or even stay awake. It’s been a really hot August and September.”
Students at 23 other schools have sent letters to lawmakers, said social studies teacher Corey Rosenlee.
Hawaii’s schools average 65 years old. Many could not handle the electrical load for air conditioning without structural upgrades. The department estimates that power costs would increase from $48 million to $132 million if all schools were air-conditioned, L’Heureux said.
Rep. Bob McDermott and Sen. Will Espero represent Ewa Beach. They told students they will advocate for air conditioning.
“I live in Ewa. My daughter goes to Campbell,” McDermott said. “I have a personal stake in it. We’re working very hard. Your voices are important.”