Usually, weather is more of a small talk subject. However, the recent heat wave that hit California has changed weather from mere small talk to a hot topic regarding its effects on classrooms and learning.
The temperature reached a high of 99 degrees on Tuesday, September 16. The temperatures rest of the week also peaked in the nineties, excluding September 18, which finally cooled to 81 degrees. Many students and teachers are now beginning to insist that air conditioning is now a necessity. It has been estimated by the OC Register that it would cost over $60 million to install air conditioning in Newport Mesa’s remaining school buildings, sparking debate over whether the investment is worthwhile.
Physics teacher Ms. Ras stated that the heat has had a serious impact on students. The heat "gives them less energy; they're grumpier, not as focused." According to her, the students aren't as responsive to lessons as usual and when asked why, they blame the heat. When asked whether the price of air conditioning installation is justified, she responded, "Can we live without it? Yes, but what are we sacrificing?"
No OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) law specifies the maximum temperature classrooms may be, but one law does state temperatures must be "within acceptable range".
Another teacher claims that this heat wave has had no effect on the learning environment at all. The only difference is the amount of complaints, as she claims "the kids who complain about the heat also complain that is it too cold in other rooms!” She explains there is no difference in behavior between the cooler earlier periods and the more heat-stricken later periods. In this teacher's opinion, the level of comfort in the students is not nearly as important as the level of comfort of the teacher in regards how well students learn. "I do my best work when I am comfortable. If I'm not comfortable, my teaching suffers and so will the students' learning," she states.
Other teachers take the middle ground. They concede that yes, the heat has impacted students; however, it is not severe. They argue heat wave can not be used as a scapegoat for students that are struggling. When asked whether air conditioning installation is worth the cost, one teacher replied that the money "could be better spent on other things." For many, air conditioning is a luxury, not a requirement, so while installation would be highly appreciated, it is not seen as top priority.
Still, many are finding the severe temperatures difficult to cope with, and are searching for solutions. Ms. Wang, the new Mandarin teacher on campus said “I would be willing to [pay my share as a taxpayer].” She also explained how she believed most of the teachers she knew in the school were very cooperative and that her first and second periods were manageable, while her last two were not as much, suggesting that perhaps it would be beneficial to have a different schedule to cooperate with the high temperatures by starting and ending schooldays early.
Mr. Harper, has taken a passionate stand for air conditioning installation with his "No Schooling without Cooling" campaign.
In response to this issue, teachers with air conditioned rooms have taken to offering other teachers their rooms temporarily. One teacher believes that it is “great that rooms are open for use,” but switching rooms is not wholly convenient. She explained how it is much easier for her to teach from her own room as she has all of her tools at her disposal. Ms. Ras also agreed that although switching classes would be likeable because of access to air conditioning, “it is difficult for organization.”
Administration has also taken action to help solve this issue by providing new fans, water bottles, and more.
Regardless of whether or not there is a correlation between the heat and students' learning, the thing most agree on is that the recent heat was indeed uncomfortable and that they are looking forward to the cool breezes of sweater weather.
Written by Hannah Burnett and Robert Bogdan