Taking the heat out of schools in Ewa Beach
Leaving a toddler in a sweltering car for an hour is a horrific crime punishable by law, yet leaving thousands of students cooped up in sweltering classrooms all day is perfectly legal.
Frustrated with the poor conditions of their educational environment and wanting more immediate results, hundreds of students and faculty from James Campbell High School rallied at the state Capitol last week to show support for House Bill 1960, which would appropriate funds to provide air-conditioned classrooms at their school, and to protest a new Department of Education list that left them in the dust.
Ewa Beach schools ranked at the top of the DOE's air-conditioning priority list for more than a decade, yet just as they were starting to allocate funds to these schools, the DOE released a new report that dropped their ranking to 70. The new study released by Energy Industries in November 2007 is deeply flawed with incorrect information, based on assumptions, not on a human being taking the temperature in person.
Although the report cites the highest temperature reaching a mere 88 degrees, the calculation is false. Any student, teacher, or resident can attest to the intolerable heat, which easily reaches into the 100s. In fact, teachers have even measured 100-degree temperatures in their very own classrooms.
According to the state Department of Education, the limited funding available can air-condition only one or two schools per year. That means Ewa Beach schools would have to wait more than 30 years to get air-conditioning instead of the four- to 10-year period that was promised to them before.
Did those formulating the new list consider that Campbell High School is on the airplane approach path to the main runway at the Honolulu airport? Did they consider architectural deficiencies that made classrooms vandal-proof by placing windows just at the top of classrooms but as a result created low airflow? Did they consider the abnormal dust that accompanies the dry Ewa plain and from the constant construction in the area?
The updated list, based on humidity and the length of time schools remain at peak temperatures before heat subsides, is incorrect. Not only is it based on limited criteria, but the list ignores significant external factors unique to the Ewa region.
Air conditioning facilitates productive, effective learning when heat and noise distractions exist. Right now teachers must leave windows and doors open, as fans aren't nearly enough to alleviate the heat, and some buildings do not have the electrical capacity to have fans. These openings expose students and teachers to dust and thunderous noise from overhead commercial planes. Dust is prone to accumulate and damage classroom computers and the noise makes teaching nearly impossible, as teachers must take multiple breaks between lessons. In a classroom filled with 30 or more students, these obstacles are clearly distracting.
Board of Education members say the list is not official, yet the DOE proactively released the list to the press in November as if it were. I am hoping, on behalf of the students at James Campbell High School and all of Ewa Beach, that the BOE disposes of the flawed list as soon as possible so that we can get back on track to the real list that makes Ewa Beach a priority again.
Rep. Kymberly Pine is a Republican who represents the District 43, Ewa Beach. She is the author of House Bill 1960.