Two years ago, the Smoke Signal conducted a front-page investigative report regarding MSJ’s “Ventilation Crisis”. The purpose of the report, featuring a school-wide survey as well as district involvement, was to raise a red flag about MSJ’s various general equipment failures. These malfunctions ranged from issues concerning classroom heating and air conditioning (AC), to broken clocks, intercoms, and doors. The most prominent concern was with the “temperature lockout,” or the implementation of district control of central heating and the AC. This seizure of control was to be seen as a “more efficient system set to district standards”, but largely resulted in teachers having no power over the noisy air conditioners or false information displays. Students wrote petitions to FUSD and the Smoke Signal conducted a school-wide teacher survey, but the district continued to maintain that the thermostat takeover would bring stability to rooms.
Two years later, students’ teeth are chattering in Digital Imaging (room B32) and sweating in room B21, still wondering why each classroom has a microclimate of its own. When these issues begin to hinder students’ ability to focus, comfort, and overall school experience, it is definitely time for a change.
FUSD Manager of Maintenance Gene Wheatley said, “[FUSD is] trying to control [the AC] for comfort and to maintain our utility bill.” The lockout system was also implemented with the purpose of rectifying complaints about malfunctions. Though the number of complaints decreased and teacher satisfaction rose after the AC lockout was put into place (according to surveys taken by the Smoke Signal), FUSD has clearly not done enough. District control over the AC has not decreased the frequency of malfunctions. Certain rooms are still suffering from malfunctioning equipment that FUSD is slow to fix; for example, Math Teacher Matt Lazar’s air conditioner was broken for almost two months (during which time his classes were moved to the A-Wing Cafeteria and the library) before FUSD got around to installing a new one.
Moreover, FUSD control of the AC fundamentally makes no sense because each classroom is subject to different conditions and personal preferences.Therefore, a standardized AC setting is ineffective and in some cases exacerbates uncomfortable weather conditions. Certain air conditioners will blast cold air in the middle of winter or heat up rooms on hot spring days. Moreover, air conditioners have been known to turn on loudly and unexpectedly in the middle of class, disrupting discussions and making it difficult for students and teachers to hear each other.
For a school that is ranked so highly nationwide for our academic performance, some classroom environments are in a deplorable condition. Though simply giving power over the AC to the teachers may not be the entire solution, it is the first step to ensuring that our academics continue to improve by providing a comfortable and supportive environment for students.