ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — St. Paul Public Schools officials have sent 2,000 water bottles and several hundred fans to help students cope with the heat in a district where two-thirds of schools don’t have air conditioning.
The district doesn’t deem air conditioning a necessity at most facilities because they’re closed during the hottest months of the year, the Pioneer Press reported .
Mark Westpfahl, a teacher at Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented Magnet, said the indoor temperature reached 101 degrees inside his classroom Tuesday.
Westpfahl wrote on Twitter that he felt light-headed and had a headache, which he said are signs of heat exhaustion. He said he had to send more than a dozen students to the nurse’s office.
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“I am most concerned for my Muslim students who are fasting during Ramadan,” he said. “I have had more than a dozen students this past Friday come up to me, several in tears, begging me not to tell their parents that they are breaking their fast.”
Secondary schools tend to have air conditioning but elementary schools do not, said Tom Parent, the district’s facilities director.
“Historically, we’ve been very conservative about energy usage and trying to make sure we spend money efficiently,” he said.
The district plans to spend $16 million on five projects to improve or install new cooling systems. Three high schools will get air conditioning for the first time, while cheaper options to pump out humidity are being considered for elementary schools, Parent said.
“Our focus has been on not providing blanket A/C coverage just because of the significant cost of not just installing but operating,” he said.
The district has been ventilating buildings before school to move cool air in, Parent said. Students were also encouraged to bring water and cool, wet towels.
“We’re trying to help our schools manage this heat as best we can,” Parent said.
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com