There’s a series of windows at Will Rogers Learning Community that haven’t been opened in years because they’re painted shut.
That’s according to Sarah Braff, a former teacher at the Santa Monica elementary school who is the current president of the local Classroom Teachers Association.
And that’s just one item on her growing list of concerns, as hot weather has made for uncomfortable classroom conditions across the Santa Monica-Malibu school district in the first eight weeks of the school year.
“It’s hot and humid and cumulative,” she said at the local Board of Education’s meeting Thursday. “We appreciate the fans … but fans are just a temporary solution because of the sound levels. The more fans, the louder it gets.”
Heat relief has become Braff’s clarion call at school board meetings in recent weeks following complaints from teachers, students and parents about unbearable indoor temperatures during the school day.
She asked district officials to open all sealed windows, add more water fountains to help students stay hydrated and upgrade classroom blinds. She also repeated her request for SMMUSD to move forward on air conditioning for the hottest spaces.
We have “clearly heard the need to address heat issues in the district,” said Jan Maez, the district’s chief financial officer.
Officials are “scrambling” to install more fans and come up with other short-term solutions, Maez said. She added that she had not heard about the inoperable windows at Will Rogers but that district leaders would aim to address the matter “aggressively.”
Opening the painted-shut windows “sounds like a no-brainer,” board member Craig Foster said.
As for air conditioning, Maez said, installation at sites across the district requires evaluation of electrical capabilities.
“There might be some misunderstanding of how big an initiative that might be,” she said. “Without that, you really don’t move forward on a decision about air conditioning. The one thing we don’t want to do is plug in a lot of air conditioning and then, all of a sudden, we don’t have lights or, even worse than that, we don’t have the technology in the classroom that we’ve spent so much of our bond money on. It really is a balance.”
The district plans to hire a mechanical engineering firm to conduct heat studies, analyze classrooms and facilities and make recommendations.
Proposals for the analysis are due Nov. 10, according to the district’s new bond manager, Steven Massetti, whose consultancy is being paid more than $400,000 to oversee bond money this school year. The studies will begin in early 2016, and Massetti acknowledged that the temperatures will likely be significantly cooler by then.
“It’s going to take a while,” Massetti said of long-term improvement.
Braff, though, said it’s a waste of time and money to conduct heat studies.
“We have to fund air conditioning,” she said. “We’re silly to fool ourselves to pay for a bunch of studies that show we need air conditioning. … The most heinous classrooms must be air-conditioned. Some are much hotter than others, and those need to be addressed.”
Meanwhile, the district’s purchasing department is working to procure roller shades to keep direct sunlight out of classrooms and other instructional spaces, Maez said.
SMMUSD officials were scheduled to hold a job walk for roller shades Monday. Bids for the work will be accepted starting Nov. 3, and work will likely begin in early 2016, Massetti said.
He said the district can’t accept donated air-conditioning units from parents because the schools weren’t designed to handle the additional strains on energy infrastructure.