The struggle to stay cool for school
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.