Students, teachers at Ida B. Wells High School says classroom temperatures frustrating

With hot weather and no AC, teachers and students are battling hot temperatures.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 7:30 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The heat on Friday is a reminder that summer isn’t over quite yet, but students and teachers are counting down to cooler days.

With no central air conditioning on hot days, a teacher at Ida B. Wells says classrooms their building can range between the upper 80s and low 90s even with a portable air conditioner.

“We dread looking at the weather. It’s the first thing that we look at. How hot is it gonna be? How hot is it gonna be this week?” the teacher, who wants to remain anonymous, said.

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Some high schoolers say the hot temperatures can be frustrating.

“What? It’s 80 degrees out here right now but in there I’m sure it’s hotter, it feels hotter, definitely,” Sadie Hyde, an Ida B. Wells student, said.

“It’s gotten to 90 degrees in a classroom before,” Meredith Friess, an 11th grader, said.

The nearly 70-year-old building doesn’t have a central air conditioning system and while they have rented portable ACs for some classes, many say it doesn’t bring much relief in the classroom, especially when temperatures reach over 90 degrees.

“They do bring down the temperature maybe five degrees but they’re not big enough to serve the space of the rooms. So the rooms are still extremely hot. I’ve got one in my room today. It’s on full blast, down as low as it can go and my room is still at 87 degrees right now,” the teacher said.

In fact, she says there are teachers who take matters into their own hands, bringing their own box fans from home. However, when all else fails, she said they have to move students out of the classroom.

“What kind of message does it send that they have to sit out in the hallway or in the courtyard in the shade of a tree to get relief?” the teacher said.

Some students say that makes learning difficult when they’re so uncomfortable.

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“There’s been times where I can’t focus because it’s so hot and teachers have specifically moved class outside because it’s so hot in their classroom,” Friess said.

PPS sent this statement:

“While we continue to modernize and improve our school environments through the generous investment from our community, we recognize the majority of our buildings are over 80 years old and do not have central air conditioning. We are committed to creating a healthy learning environment and preventing heat-related illnesses. As a school district, we are taking several steps to address comfort and safety in our schools.

During heat waves, these steps include:

  • Running ventilation systems overnight and over the weekend to help circulate as much cool air as possible.
  • Opening all operable windows each morning (when and where it is safe to do so).
  • Operating all HVAC and portable HEPA units as programmed, adding to the regular air circulation in every learning space.
  • Providing ample access to water, including water fountains and additional water coolers as necessary.
  • Working with school leaders to modify school activities, when needed, to limit the impacts of the heat on students and staff. Decisions about outdoor activities, like athletic practices and games, are made based on the site-specific heat index of individual communities, using OSAA’s heat index calculating tool.”