The strug­gle to stay cool for school

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Taihape - KARO­LINE TUCKEY

Chil­dren head­ing back to school in hot class­rooms face se­ri­ous chal­lenges to their learn­ing, and the con­di­tions are tough on teach­ers too.

With sum­mer tem­per­a­tures in Manawatu¯ reg­u­larly reach­ing into the 30s, teach­ers and pupils risk work­ing in un­fairly hot con­di­tions, teach­ers’ union spokesman Liam Ruther­ford says.

Many chil­dren go­ing back to school this week head back to air­con­di­tioned class­rooms, but not all schools or classes have the means to keep cool.

‘‘As the day goes on it gets tougher and tougher. In terms of your men­tal abil­i­ties to per­form on hot days, it gets re­ally chal­leng­ing.’’

In­stalling air­con­di­tion­ing was costly and dif­fi­cult to bud­get when schools faced gaps in op­er­a­tional fund­ing, Ruther­ford said.

Teach­ers were do­ing their best to think out­side the square and bring re­lief from the heat.

Ash­hurst School prin­ci­pal Heath Chit­ten­den said the school was lucky to have a lot of shaded ar­eas for pupils to sit un­der at lunchtimes, as well as air­con­di­tion­ing in all of its class­rooms.

Pupils also had the use of the school pool, which was en­closed, mean­ing chil­dren weren’t out in the sun while try­ing to cool down.

‘‘We are lucky to have the fa­cil­ity we have so the kids aren’t stand­ing in the hot sun.’’

Feild­ing In­ter­me­di­ate prin­ci­pal Diane Crate said pupils would be tak­ing twice-daily dunks in the school pool to cool off, with plenty of electric fans run­ning in class.

The school is look­ing into buy­ing heat pumps, but for now the old-fash­ioned class­rooms were dif­fi­cult to ven­ti­late, she said.

‘‘It’s a real chal­lenge. The class­rooms are re­ally hot. It im­pacts on learn­ing. If it’s 30 de­grees out­side, you can imag­ine what they get up to.’’

At nearby Lyt­ton Street School, grants were used to fund heat pumps two years ago, mak­ing ‘‘a mas­sive dif­fer­ence’’ to learn­ing, prin­ci­pal Ben WardSmith said.

‘‘Some of our classes in sum­mer would have been in the 30s be­cause a lot of those older blocks don’t have breezes go through.

‘‘It was pretty sti­fling, which makes it hard to con­cen­trate.’’

Teach­ers help the kids keep cool at lunchtime by set­ting up a poly­thene slip ‘n slide-style wa­ter­slide, with de­ter­gent and a hose, and big oak trees pro­vide pop­u­lar, shaded climb­ing spots.

Awa­puni School prin­ci­pal Stephen Soutar joked their hot weather rules in­cluded ‘‘don’t com­plain, be­cause Palmer­ston North’s weather is usu­ally cold’’.

Their air­con­di­tioned class­rooms were ‘‘fab­u­lous’’ and made a big dif­fer­ence, but they still needed to take mea­sures such as en­cour­ag­ing the kids to use the wa­ter cool­ers.

‘‘With­out air­con­di­tion­ing it would be ter­ri­ble, there’s more body heat with every­one stuck in class­rooms.

‘‘They just get very rest­less and not fo­cused; it’s hard for the teach­ers too.

‘‘We’re lucky be­cause we have a swim­ming pool, so the first five or six weeks every­one gets out in the pool.’’

Lyn Hann, prin­ci­pal of Palmer­ston North Ad­ven­tist Chris­tian School said, even with air­con­di­tion­ing, the teach­ers of­ten take the kids out to learn un­der the trees and make sure they have drink bot­tles with them.

‘‘We’ve never had it this hot be­fore, so it’s a wee bit of a new ter­ri­tory.

‘‘It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see how this heat plays out now.

‘‘We could end up with quite a few cre­ative op­tions.’’

Class­rooms should ideally be kept be­tween 18 and 25 de­grees Cel­sius, Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion spokes­woman Kim Shan­non said.

Where this is not pos­si­ble, the board of trustees can de­cide to close a school.


Elec­tra Bar­nett cools off on the Lyt­ton Street School wa­ter slide, which has been put to plenty of use this sum­mer.

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