DOE studying how to best cool classrooms

Our sweltering summer heat is causing some students to fall asleep in school, complaining of dizziness, and having to constantly leave the classroom. That’s what some teachers have told KHON2 News.

A teacher from Ilima Intermediate in Ewa Beach contacted us through our “Report It” feature. Brian Cole said the temperature in classrooms go into the 90s.

Cole said the heat has lately been a big distraction in class. “Some of the classrooms here on campus get around 94, 95,” he said.

It’s been so hot that yesterday, he took a picture of himself wearing a sweat-soaked shirt while in class.

Cole brought three fans to his class in Ewa Beach. But it doesn’t always help.

“We have to let the kids hydrate constantly and we don’t deny anybody to get water, the kids are constantly raising their hand,” he said. “It’s just one after another, especially this last week. They go and hydrate, and some of them are putting their heads down (in class).”

Right now, Ilima Intermediate is high on the DOE’s list of schools where air conditioning is a priority. But the DOE says AC isn’t always the best option, since many schools are old and don’t have the capacity to support it.

The DOE says it would also cost $1.7 billion to install air conditioners in all public schools. The annual power bill is $138 million for DOE schools and facilities.

But some schools, like Kaimuki High School, are using other alternatives to cool their classrooms.

“The DOE facilities put this solar-powered ventilation system in order to power the room with natural light, as well as use the solar power to cool the room,” said vice-principal Gary Harada.

Other schools, like Hokulani Elementary, have installed solar ventilators, which allow hot air to flow out, while cooler air goes in.

State Rep. Takashi Ohno tried to get more money for cooler schools this past legislative session, but his bill for $25 million did not pass. Ohno, a former teacher, will reintroduce the bill next session.

“Air conditioning and cooling classrooms is just the basic necessity that so many students and so many teachers would benefit from,” he said.

The DOE says a study is being done so they can figure out the most effective way to cool classrooms, whether it’s adding solar vents, insulating classrooms or adding more windows.

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