Two years ago, light was shed on a situation in Maryland. The Baltimore County school system came under fire for a lack of air conditioning in many of the public school system’s facilities. At that time, Amber Budd, a then-freshman at Dulaney High School said, “It’s really difficult because the heat gets to us and teachers expect us to stay awake.”
Part of the problem is that a budget for repairing or replacing many outdated or nonfunctioning air conditioning systems in the county’s 39 school facilities has been in place since 2014, but the work had not begun until August 2016. Even then, that was only for 5 of the 25 elementary schools in the district.
In other words, 39 schools were without air conditioning in Baltimore County in 2014, and in August of 2016, only five had been replaced and updated. According to a document made available by the school district,
- 21 schools are in construction phase as of August 2017
- 5 will begin construction in August 2018
- 2 will begin construction in August 2019
- 1 is still in the Design phase, but construction is due to begin in August 2019
- 3 are currently in the Design phase, and slated to begin construction in August 2020
- 1 is currently in the Design phase, and will begin construction in August 2021
And oddly enough, Dulaney High School, the school which was receiving so much attention in 2015 for the supreme heat for teachers and students, is listed on this document as not having a “Current Phase” or “Installation Date” for the construction phase of the project.
What does this mean for the students, teachers, and staff members?
There has been some attention paid lately to how temperature variations affect attention spans and cognitive abilities. A high school Science Research Club tackled this very question. The three student researchers examined how a colder or warmer room affected a class’s average test scores as compared to a neutrally-temperate room’s results. They utilized six different classrooms and groups of students.
In the first group of three classes and students, one room had an ambient temperature of 70.5 degrees Fahrenheit for the duration of the test, one room had a temperature of 72.5 degrees, and the third had a temperature setting of 73.6 degrees. These temperatures were averaged from multiple readings over the duration of the test, as a room cannot be maintained at an exact temperature for extended periods of time.
The colder room saw an average score of 86.7% on the test given to the students; the neutral, control room had an average score of 86.9%; and the warmer room saw results at an average of 82.7%. All students were the same age and grade level, to ensure as little variance in ability as possible.
A second round of testing was completed, with new groups of students. The temperatures were more drastically adjusted, this time, to the tune of 61 degrees, 72 degrees, and 81 degrees, averaged in the same manner as the prior groups.
The test results were as follows:
- In the colder room, test scores averaged to 76%.
- In the neutral room, test scores averaged out to 90%.
- In the warmer room, test scores averaged to 72%.
While some may say that these findings are not conclusive because they were completed by high school students, they might reconsider their opinion when they learn that these very students, for this very study, received national awards for excellence for their methods and procedures in this and other experiments. Just because they are younger than many scientists does not negate their findings.
There is an optimal range for learning and academic performance, and if the weather is too hot to be safe without climate control measures during the school day, something needs to give.