DC teachers ask leaders to help cool classrooms

One teacher said her classroom went up to 80 degrees before she and her 22 students were transferred to a smaller, cooler room elsewhere on campus.

WASHINGTON — It wasn’t just hot outside in DC on Tuesday. Many classrooms in the District were also warm.

Numerous DC Public Schools (DCPS) teachers and parents took to social media to ask district leaders to fix broken heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units. English) in their classrooms.

Maya Baum has taught at DCPS for five years. She said her classroom went up to 80 degrees before she and her 22 students were transferred to a smaller, cooler room elsewhere on campus.

“There is no airflow and we are hot and uncomfortable,” he said. “You don’t want to do anything when you feel like this.”

The District’s Department of General Services (DGS) maintains DCPS school buildings.

Baum said management and custodial staff routinely contact DGS to repair HVAC units, but problems persist. She said that she can’t understand why this happens every year.

“When we arrived at our school building after being out for over a year due to a global pandemic, we were told by city leaders that our buildings were ready and had tours, and work orders had been completed, and they were ready for students and staff to come back,” he said. “We had classrooms without air conditioning and it was 90 degrees outside. And when it was winter and temperatures dropped below freezing, we had no heat.”

DGS also provides a public online database that shows how many work orders are open for HVAC units in DCPS schools.

As of 3 pm on May 31, there were 262 open work orders in DCPS classrooms related to cooling issues. Two hundred and fifteen of those work orders were tagged as “pending evaluation” from maintenance staff.

There were also 100 DCPS facilities with open work orders. Ninety-eight of those facilities were schools.

Leckie Elementary School in District 8 had the most open work orders related to HVAC refrigeration issues with 18. Wheatley Educational Campus in District 5 had 17 similar orders. Meanwhile, Deal Middle School, in Ward 3, had 12.

DC hit a high of 96 degrees on Tuesday, the highest temperature on record so far this year.

Due to expected highs in the region, Baltimore City Public Schools even ordered early dismissal of its non-air-conditioned schools on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It is not known if DCPS will choose to do something similar.

Neighborhood Advisory Commissioner Evan Yeats also has three children at Thomson Elementary School in northwest DC. He said he can’t understand how district leaders would be affected by the heat in the summer.

“I think the most frustrating thing about this is that everyone knew it was getting hotter,” he said. “Everyone knew at the beginning of the year that we needed an HVAC system here. Everyone knew at the beginning of winter that we needed the heating system to work and it has failed in every case.”

Thomson Elementary School currently has six open work orders related to refrigeration issues.

Yeats said her children also had to be moved to school Tuesday because of the heat.

“They doubled in a second grade classroom and [my son’s] The old class was in the library all day,” he said.

This latest school issue comes just three weeks before DC voters take part in the District’s Democratic Mayoral Primary. Historically, the winner of that primary has won the general election later in the year.

Both current DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Councilmember Robert White are running for mayor. Bowser appointed current DGS director Keith Anderson as head of the department in November 2018. White chairs the Council’s Committee on Government Operations and Facilities that supervise DGS.

Neither Bowser nor White provided comment to WUSA9 on the issue of broken HVACs on Tuesday. However, White’s office tweeted to several teachers and parents that it would work with DGS to resolve HVAC issues at their schools on Tuesday.

In 2020, Bowser also announced plans to dedicate $24 million to accelerate the modernization of HVAC units at 116 DCPS facilities in support of safely reopening schools during the pandemic shutdown.

The candidates have also disagreed on whether the mayor should have control of the schools. Baum said this provides a clear reason why the office shouldn’t do it.

“There has to be a dramatic change and like a real change,” he said. “There has to be a change in the way power is exercised in the city. The control of the mayor’s office is not working. There has to be a body that is solely responsible for making decisions about education.”

Yeats added that he thinks more DGS oversight is needed as well.

“The council is not providing the kind of oversight that is needed to take this seriously,” he said.

WUSA9 has reached out to DCPS and DGS for comment on this issue and has not yet received a response.

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