The availability of air conditioning has been sporadic during the first week of classes in some public schools in Montgomery County, due to mechanical issues stemming from temperatures in the low to mid 90s throughout the week.
Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Derek Turner said Thursday the problems are related to the age of some of the county’s school buildings, which are more than 50 years old, although some schools were renovated in the 1980s and 90s. He said HVAC maintenance crews have been working to repair the malfunctioning systems throughout the week, but they haven’t been able to get to all of the schools that are experiencing problems. Turner declined to say how many schools had malfunctioning air conditioning units.
“We’re a very large system, and we can’t move fast enough,” he said.
The air conditioning at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda has been malfunctioning since the summer, Principal Robert Dodd said Thursday. Dodd said HVAC crews had repaired most of the school’s air conditioning by Thursday afternoon, but a few rooms remained to be fixed.
“One day a room is working and then the next day it’s not working,” he said. “The third floor of the building we’ve had issues, and then behind the building we have [the former] Whittier Woods Elementary where we use some classrooms, and that’s not been completely fixed.”
Dodd said assistant principals have been walking around the school to check the temperature in certain rooms throughout the week. He said classes have moved to better-cooled rooms when necessary, and he knows of only one student who has gone home sick because of the heat.
Turner said the only school that has had to dismiss early due to heat-related issues was Brookhaven Elementary School in Rockville, which closed early on Tuesday. Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Prince George’s County Public Schools have all dismissed at least some of their schools early this week due to extreme heat. Baltimore County schools do not have air conditioning, and Prince George’s schools do, but 40 schools were having problems with their systems, according to The Washington Post.
Unlike those other school systems, MCPS likely would not dismiss students systemwide in the event of extreme heat, Turner said. The protocol, he said, varies by school and by how widespread the lack of air conditioning is.
“Is it a few rooms? Is it the whole building? What part of the day is it? If it’s an hour or two into the day, that’s taken into consideration,” he said, in describing the factors that would lead a school to dismiss early.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com