OKCPS Teachers File Grievances Over Hot Classrooms

Tuesday, August 16th 2016, 5:40 pm
By: Grant Hermes

Official grievances were filed by teachers at U.S. Grant and Capitol Hill high schools within the same week, both saying they were facing problems due to high classroom temperatures.

Eleven teachers from U.S. Grant High School signed a grievance Wednesday, and 42 teachers signed the Capitol Hill High School grievance before it was filed Friday. According to the teachers, classroom temperatures regularly broke 80 degrees.

“It's hard to learn in an environment when you have classroom temperatures as high as 88, 90 degrees,” American Federation of Teachers representative Benjamin Bax said on Tuesday.

Bax said some teachers complained of feeling nauseous and fatigued. A few even started passing out water to students. They also said students would have a difficult time paying attention or would generally in a bad mood in the overheated rooms.

“Usually, teachers are rather reserved and don't want to file a grievance,” Bax said. “Having kids in that poor learning environment where they're hot and a little irritable, the teachers decided to take action.”

District officials say they were aware of the problems.

Spokesman Mark Myers said on Tuesday he’d been getting almost hourly social media posts about the increasingly unbearable classrooms. Myers said similar problems had happened at more than 20 schools, he estimated 24 total. The cause he said stemmed from an effort to save money by shutting off the air conditioning overnight.

“We were hoping it would cool down the building and then you could shut it off overnight and save costs that way, but the systems and the way that some of our schools are it just would not cool down,” Myers said.

Maintenance crews were tasked to the schools where AC systems had been the on/off schedule and the problems had been resolved by going back to the old system of letting the air conditioners run 24 hours a day.

Bax concurred and said the problem had been fixed within 24 hours at U.S. Grant High School. Bax added there were planned meetings between the union and the district to review the grievances in the coming weeks.

The decision to return to the older system will hurt likely the district’s bottom line. When asked if there would be a cost to the district, Myers said yes but he did not know how to much that would amount.