Schools sweat air-con problems

Problems with air conditioning continue to plague island schools with the start of the new school year being just around the corner.

“We are in a very bad situation,” Valerie Kaipat, assistant principal of Untalan Middle School, said yesterday morning.

Kaipat said only about 18 of 66 air-conditioning units were functioning at the school at the beginning of the summer. That number could be even lower now because several months have passed. The school’s principal contacted the Guam Department of Education and asked that the school be visited to work on the problem. Workers showed up at the school yesterday morning.

“We’re hoping that they can get as many of those units operating (as they can),” Kaipat said.

Kaipat said temperatures in some of the rooms have reached almost 90 degrees. She doesn’t anticipate that all the air-conditioning units will be fixed by the time school begins because some of them might need replacement parts. If this is the case, teachers will open up windows and remove the Plexiglas in an effort to ventilate the rooms. In some instances, teachers might take their students outside to an open area. Some teachers even bring in their own personal fans to use in their rooms in an effort to cool them down, Kaipat said.

Not having properly ventilated classrooms would violate one of the 14 benchmarks set out in the Every Child is Entitled to an Adequate Public Education Act. It states the Guam Department of Education must provide air-conditioned or properly ventilated classrooms in which the sensible air temperature is no greater than 78 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Pacific Daily News files.

George Washington

George Washington High School also was experiencing problems with air conditioning yesterday. About 10 of about 102 classrooms were without air conditioning, said Bernie Perez, administrative assistant at the school. Other classrooms had only one of two air conditioning units working.

“Plan B for us is we have fans to put in our classrooms,” Perez said.

She said if temperatures are high enough, one fan is normally placed in rooms where one air conditioning unit is operating. If temperatures aren’t that high, one unit can be enough. If rooms have no air conditioning, two fans are placed in them.

Perez said she’s not sure if the broken units will be fixed before school starts. “We need the air conditioning,” Perez said. “Even if we open the windows, it’s still very hot. If (students are) hot and tired, the learning’s not there.”

Southern High

Air-conditioning problems were also present at Southern High School. Principal James Petitte said most of the upstairs floor of the 5000 building, which houses the school’s freshman academy, was without air conditioning yesterday morning. He said he’s been asking for these problems to be addressed but as of yesterday afternoon, the problem hadn’t been fixed.

Petitte said he will find a way for his students to be in air-conditioned rooms, even if the issues in the 5000 building aren’t addressed by the time school starts.

“I’ll find them rooms with air conditioning,” he said. “If I have to put them in another building temporarily, I have rooms I can use.”

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