OP-ED: Taking the Heat in Un-Air Conditioned Classrooms

Nick Lieggi, Staff Reporter, Senior

Imagine a building with 900 students, all crammed into tiny desks, in tiny rooms, with nearly 30 per room, each room without air conditioning. As unpleasant as that sounds, it is an unfortunate reality that PMHS is facing today. Each year from September through October and again from April through June students and teachers face the dilemma of how to effectively learn when they cannot concentrate because of the heat. The PMHS administration needs to make it a priority to air condition every classroom to help protect the general health and well-being of our student body.

The fact is that right now, more classrooms in the building lack AC than have it. The average student schedule might see one or two classes a day with air conditioning, perhaps one class in the science wing and another with a window unit. Even though the school has made steps towards installing window units, notably in the former hotbox known as room 125, merely targeting the rooms notorious for being scaldingly hot is not enough.

At a time when the global temperature is rising to the highest it has been since we started recording it, how does it make sense to not utilize the resources we have available to lower it? Weather tracking organization Climate Central notes that the years 2015-2018 made up the top four years in terms of hottest on record. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration also reports that the five hottest months in New York include three months of the school year. Pelham is, unfortunately, not immune to the heat, and so far, PMHS has done little to correct this.

As a result of the minimal actions being taken, Pelham students are facing the negative effects. Education Week found that for every one degree Fahrenheit gained in temperature, students lose approximately 1 percent of what they learned from the previous year.

Education Week further cites an expert who notes that 70 degrees is the typical plane at which people become uncomfortable, which results in students being less able to learn, and as the temperature keeps rising, students learn progressively less.

And yet, on a relatively mild Wednesday in late September, at 9 in the morning, one classroom without air conditioning stands at a shocking 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

This study corroborates another, published by Air Group, LLC, which investigated conditions of nearly 4.5 million students in New York City public schools, just a few minutes south of us. The study showed that higher classroom temperatures resulted in not just a 12.3 percent higher likelihood of failing an exam, but also a 2.5 percent lower likelihood of graduating on time.

At the end of the day, it is abundantly clear that steps have been taken to move towards air conditioning in some classrooms. But unfortunately, even with those changes, the student body of PMHS is still at risk. High temperatures is clearly detrimental to student’s learning, the administration must do more to put air conditioning in our classrooms.