by Isari Martinez & Xylenn Nevarez
As Pueblo marches well into the second quarter, and November is upon us, the weather is at last cooling off. It seems that for many, summer lasted longer than usual this year. Unfortunately, for many students and teachers, it felt like “summer” inside the classroom as well for much of the first quarter.
During summer break, the air conditioning systems are shut down to save money. However, when several teachers returned to this new school year, they discovered that their classrooms were hot; and they stayed hot sometimes for weeks well into late September.
Marketing teacher Dr. Maria Bicknell, located in the Tech Building, is one of those teachers sweltering in extremely uncomfortable conditions.
“I tried to be positive in this hot classroom, but it was hard to manage at times,” Bicknell said. “There were some days I felt sick when I left Pueblo at the end of the day—like I was going to throw up.”
Bicknell’s neighbor and another Tech Building teacher, English and journalism teacher for the past 28 years at Pueblo, Mr. Rana Medhi, said, “Our administrators and district engineers need to ensure that we teachers and our students are comfortable on the first day of school. There’s no excuse for hot classrooms year after year. Students cannot learn in 92-degree classrooms, and old teachers can’t tolerate the heat anymore.” He paused and added, “It seems to me that we educators should feel confident about returning to a new school year with everything working and having comfortable teaching environments.”
Medhi added that he was fortunate that he had to teach elsewhere for just two weeks; some teachers weren’t so lucky…
Mr. Valentino Martin, Pueblo’s auto shop teacher—and his students—suffered in the heat since from the beginning of the school year. He and his classroom had to be relocated to the Special Projects Room, which was very inconvenient for his curriculum, although students still learned about auto shop safety and other issues until students were finally able to return to T-9 when the air conditioning was repaired.
Then, on Aug. 23, the A/C stopped working again, and Martin and his students were relocated again.
Another Tech Building teacher, photography teacher Ms. Emma Tarazon-Oetting, also had to be relocated to other locations while air conditioning unit was repaired.
Other non-Tech Building classrooms were also excessively hot during the first quarter across campus, and several teachers had to be relocated until the air conditioning was repaired.
Assistant Principal David Montaño said that before students and teachers returned for the new school, all of the air conditioning units were working, but a major thunderstorm just before school started disrupted several of the A/C units.
“Based on the age of some of these A/C units, repairs are bound to be needed,” Montaño said.
However, summer did end at last, which alleviated teachers and students in classrooms that still had inadequate air conditioning.
Many other environments suffered as well. Even though the weight room may boast air, the room is cooled only by a swamp cooler and big fans.
Just the opposite occurred in many classrooms as fall began in late September—classrooms experiencing frigid temperatures.
Junior Sarahi Perez said, “There are some days when the AVID classroom was downright Arctic, and so was [science teacher] Ms. Amaro’s classroom. The AVID classroom is either freezing or hot—it’s never normal in there. It seems that it’s never a healthy environment in which to learn.”
Another student, sophomore Dezarae Valenzuela, said that the Student Council room [Mr. Obregon’s classroom] is very cold. I’d rather it be cold than hot, but sometimes you need a thick blanket to stay warm.”
Junior Angel Leeth said that in her math class, taught by Ms. Rhesa Olsen, she sometimes has to borrow her teacher’s blankets, which she keeps in her classroom.
“It’s very difficult to concentrate in her frigid classroom,” Leeth said. “It’s so cold, I fall asleep.”
The AC system in the main building is controlled and set by TUSD at 76 degrees, but the question remains: Why were the temperatures in some classrooms and the library 59 degrees or colder?
Pueblo has just one engineer, Mr. Robert Fuentes, a 1997 Pueblo graduate, who has been employed for the past 14 years; however, for the past 10 years, he has been the only engineer on site.
He explained that the new equipment to maintain Pueblo’s cooling and heating systems are working with an old 1980’s pneumatic system. In other words, two different systems are trying to work together, often unsuccessfully.
“I like what I do,” Fuentes said, “but it’s frustrating maintaining an entire school by myself most of the time.” He added, “I have to do what I have to do to make classrooms feel comfortable for our students and teachers.”
He paused and added, “This school needs to prioritize repairs on its cooling system.”