Yesterday and today, Unit 4 sent Central High School students home early citing the high heat index. I have been encouraged by previous board members and administrators to see for myself what it is like to be in a classroom when the conditions outside start to resemble a sauna, and so that is exactly what I did over my lunch time.
At first I asked about coming in after the students had left. The principal, Mr. Joe Williams, suggested that if I had the time, perhaps I would benefit from seeing the kids (and teachers) in action. Which sounded like a great idea and I took him up on the offer. I opened the windows on my car during the drive over to get a little more “acclimated” if that is possible. I was warmly greeted (no pun) by the principal in the air-conditioned entry foyer (I don’t know if that is what they call it, but that is what I’ll call it), and given two classrooms to go check out, one of the first floor and one on the third (top) floor. I was told that the thermostats were registering slightly higher readings on the first floor. I also found out that Channel 3 was right behind me (and here is their story). Lastly, I learned that having Central close up shop a little early totally (and negatively) affects the coordinated schedules with Centennial, in particular those students that are shuttled to and fro.
Once past the foyer, the difference in temps was quite obvious – not only warmer, but definitely more humid as well. And as most Central Illinois folks know, it is the humidity that kills us. I knocked on the door of the first floor classroom and we introduced ourselves; several free-standing fans were attempting to help the open windows circulate air with little or no effect. The bell rang and students started to pile into chairs. Being totally new to the environment, it was interesting to observe how students (and adults for that matter) react differently to distracting climates and shorter class periods. And I got to thinking that perhaps I should come back in December and observe the difference. *grin* What would this class have looked like if it were cooler? Frankly, that was the whole reason I was there. As quoted by WCIA, the students kinda get used to it; they roll with the punches.
After about 10 minutes, I decided to head up to the third floor. Along the way, I noticed professionally dressed adults (one even had a tie) sweating profusely. That has got be hard! But they seemed energetic and pleasant, not letting a little warmth get in the way of a job well done. Climbing up the stairs, I expected to feel drastic changes, like passing through the thermocline of an old poorly-insulated house. But nope, didn’t notice anything except brightly lit hallways. The third floor classroom had fans at every desk in addition to the free-standing fans; I am thinking the former were much more useful, as shown by the students who practically hugged them. *grin* The third floor did indeed feel a little less stuffy. That is not to say it was comfortable enough to set out a hammock and take a nap – still really warm, still very humid, still sweating, just not quite as much. And again I wondered how things would be different if they had AC. I also wondered, since humidity is the “bad guy”, what would happen if the windows (and blinds/curtains) were all closed but the fans still going? Would that be worse? Better?
In talking with Stephanie Stuart and Mr. Williams, they (the school district) have already discussed several options, like putting AC units in every class. I am led to believe that the electrical draw would exceed the capacity of the building as it is, and to accommodate AC units would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $800k (all inclusive, with AC units). Which seems like a lot of money just to make things cooler. The big question is, is it worth it? Is building a new structure a better use of money? What do the kids really need? What do the staff need? (and I ask that to contrast what they all want, which is a different question) In both classes, I observed that some students were struggling while others were doing just fine. I do not know how much the weather played a role – there are so many variables. But I have no doubt that a cooler environment would raise morale and make some things easier.
To put a little twist on it, I can see how the staff are much more affected than the students. The staff have a dress code, whereas the kids have a LOT more flexibility on wearing comfortable clothes. The staff are in the building longer. And let’s face it, kids will be kids. 🙂 They remember things like a supremely hot summer school and they think “don’t want to do that again”; most kids are just going to move right along. So I give huge kudos to the staff at Central for creatively coming up with loaner fans, for putting on a smiling face even though I am sure they want to grumble about the climate, for serving our kids, our children, even when other buildings have air conditioning. Thanks, Central folks!
My question stands; to those I saw on the first and third floor (teachers and students), what do you need? Yes, the heat+humidity is a big issue, but it is one issue among many.