The students at Hopewell Elementary School are feeling the heat from a crucial missing component in their building: air conditioning.
The school currently does not have an air conditioning system in place to cool the children off during the hot summer months. They do have a heating system in place, but no AC unit. Parents, administrators, and community members spoke out at the town hearing held on Jan. 12 to express the need for air conditioners in several of the town schools.
According to the Hartford Courant, the Glastonbury Town Council approved $50,000 for a feasibility study of air conditioning needs in several of the town’s schools. Hopewell is one of five schools that are without air conditioning. Although it is not a concern in the winter, changes need to be made for when the temperature begins to rise again. One child said that the hot temperatures from lack of air conditioning makes it hard to focus and even harder to learn.
Sarah Blake has three children in the district. She is concerned about the effects of heat on the children’s performance at school.
“During excessive heat, the brain is constantly reminding the body to do something about that condition — cool yourself down,” said Blake. “Because of the constant interruptions, a student’s ability to remain focused, their memory, ability, and alertness are severely impacted. Teachers and school staff often experience the same effects.”
Even the principal, Kathleen Murphy, is rallying for air conditioners where they are needed. She says recalls a time where the temperatures reached a staggering 85 degrees in the classrooms.
“One of my teachers was sent home sick because she was throwing up,” Murphy said. “Students and staff complained of headaches. The heat makes it difficult for teachers to work effectively with their students, and the students are too hot to be engaged.”
“There is much truth to the argument that students are unable to focus completely on their studies if they are in an uncomfortable environment,” said Cale Mazarz, Sales and Marketing Manager with ABS Air Conditioning. “If the elevated temperatures are causing illness and an overall lack of concentration then the long term effects are going to be a generation of children with a mediocre education. The harsh reality is that any solution is going to be a costly solution; however, I think the long term reward of having happy, well-educated children is worth the investment.”
The money approved by the council will go towards a study intended to find the root of the problem and think of several solutions. Although parents and staff are vocal about their desire for air conditioners, Councilman Larry Byar said that they are not a definite fix to the problem at hand.
“What I’m hearing from the room is that we don’t necessarily have a problem because we don’t have air conditioning. We have a problem because the air is too warm,” Byar said. “There are many options. Air conditioning is certainly an option. Venting and exhaust systems, window treatments, coverings, or some combination thereof.”
The study will examine the warm air problem in depth, offer a host of solutions, and determine the overall cost to the district.