According to a recent report from the Los Angeles Times, nearly 1,500 complaints were filed about air conditioning problems in schools from last Tuesday through last Sunday. Wednesday marked the highest number of complaints that the district had ever seen, with 463 callers.
Los Angeles has been facing temperatures of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit this week, leaving officials swamped with complaints. Even without the heat wave, the district usually gets 60 to 80 calls on an average day about air conditioning problems. This resulted in a backlog of nearly 2,600 calls, which increased even higher to 3,277 as of Monday morning.
The district has around 30,000 classrooms, with 1% to 2% of those classrooms without functioning air conditioning. This equates to anywhere from 300 to 600 classrooms around the city.
“Many of our schools were built in the 1950s or earlier and simply do not have the electrical infrastructure to handle air conditioning,” Long Beach Schools Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser wrote in an email regarding the heat wave and how it affects the schools. “The standards for school construction and renovation are very high, and thus much more costly and labor intensive than residential construction.”
“When considering the age of the school, the insulation used when the school was built was of a much lower R-Value, thus making heat loss and gain much less inhibited,” says Scott Dickinson, Service Manager of Frigi-Temp Inc. “Also, one has to consider the additional body heat that each individual student brings with them into any conditioned space. The average person puts off about 340 BTUs of heat per hour. That, multiplied by 30 or so students, is a significant environmental heat gain for any enclosed structure. To this point, we have not even considered the ambient outdoor temperature.”
Further, providing air conditioning to all classrooms in Long Beach could cost as much as $700 million — far more than the cost of cooling a typical suburban home.
Susan Bobadilla, a librarian and former teacher at Lakewood High School in Long Beach Unified, said the heat is intense. “It was over 95 degrees in my office last week.” She remembers when she taught economics and history for four years without air conditioning, recalling it as “unbearable.”
Experts have advised that families do their best to keep cool at home during this heat wave in lieu of having air conditioning available at school.