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  • J.J. Gecain

AC Crisis in Hawaii's Schools

Lack of air conditioning is prevalent in schools in Hawaii. These are the barriers, solutions, effects, and opinion of the crisis.

Since the invention of air conditioning in the 1930s, nearly 90 percent of Americans have air conditioning in their homes. Now in Hawai’i, schools are also implementing air conditioning in classrooms and other parts of the school. According to the HSTA, out of 11,000 schools, 6,000 have air conditioning, which is around 54 percent. Farrington High School is amongst the 6,000 schools which have air conditioning in several parts of the campus.

"What’s holding us back is the funding. We’re looking at a two year plan." Hartwell Lee Loy, Vice Principal Farrington High School.

Cuyote Corey Harkins, a science teacher at Farrington High School, has found the benefits of air conditioning in classrooms. “AC has allowed my students to focus on learning. I have seen student performance increase.” Harkins also explains that before having air conditioning in his classroom, he’d have his doors open which would lead to disturbances in his classroom. Now that air conditioning has been installed in his classroom, the issue is no longer prevalent as he now keeps the door closed. On hot days without air conditioning, while difficult, Harkins finds that his students were resilient towards the heat.

Harkins also shares his barriers when it comes to having air conditioning in his room. “One particularly hot year I wanted to purchase fans using school money, but we were only allowed to buy one fan per classroom at the time. So I asked my friends on Facebook and they all donated fans, and I bought some on my own. These fans were the only way students could stay cool. The administration took the issue seriously and worked hard to find ways to cool our classrooms, because our windows don't open enough for a breeze and the glass captures the heat. The principal team was able to get AC installed in the hottest classrooms and I am so grateful that they made it happen for our classrooms.”

Hartwell Lee Loy, vice principal and head of facilities at Farrington High School, also describes the status of air conditioning in schools. “What’s holding us back is the funding.” Lee Loy also explains how they’ve identified which parts of campus already have air conditioning and need air conditioning. “We’re looking at a two year plan.” This two year plan will roll out air conditioning in places that need it, such as A and U buildings. Furthermore, Lee Loy touched on the public opinion of air conditioning. “It’s a hit or miss. Some teachers like the AC, some students like the AC, others don’t.” Lee Loy finds that air conditioning gives teachers flexibility and options as to what environment they want to teach in.

In an anonymous survey, 100 Farrington High School students were asked the question, “Does AC improve your learning in class?” Out of the 100 students asked, 77 percent said "yes", 20 percent said "no", and 3 percent said that it depends on other factors. Those who said "yes" described how air conditioning distracts them from the heat and allows them to work comfortably. The opposing side, those who said "no", described how air conditioning can make them tired or cold, creating a distraction from work. Other reasonings such as varying weather conditions and the lack of correlation between air conditioning and improvement in learning were also mentioned.

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