It may have been September, but Los Angeles was still engulfed by a relentless heat wave for much of last month, with temperatures hovering between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Few suffered more from the unseasonably hot weather than the city’s students, who still had to go to school every day despite the fact that many area schools don’t have air conditioning installed.
According to the LA Times, teachers had been sending overheated students to the nurse’s office if the temperatures become too much. Some districts had also issued heat advisories, which advised schools to consider moving students to cooler classrooms if a room’s temperature reached 91 degrees or higher.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, just 30% of public high schools in America have air conditioning. Even classrooms with air conditioning might not have a properly-functioning unit. Compared to the 89% of single-family homes across the country with air conditioning, this is a major deficit.
And the sultry heat doesn’t just make students uncomfortable. Studies show that students’ ability to learn is compromised when they sit in hot classrooms. In a 90-degree classroom filled with dozens of other students, children and teens are unable to focus on their schoolwork.
For eighth-grade teacher Julie LaConde, it’s a challenge to get students to simply complete a written assignment when it’s this hot outside.
“They’re tired, they put their heads down … they can’t focus,” she said. “They were miserable.”
LaConde isn’t the only one speaking out about the lack of air conditioning in local schools. According to a Sept. 15 LA Times article, the Los Angeles Unified district received a record 1,499 complaints regarding its lack of air conditioning from Sept. 8 through 13.
However, implementing new air conditioning systems in schools is expensive work, and many schools are too old to provide the infrastructure needed to support air conditioning. As a result, students will have to continue to sit through the summer heat for the time being.