This week’s sudden (and sweltering) heatwave not only made throngs of Bay Area locals stampede toward swimming pools, but it also highlighted the underfunded status of Oakland’s public school system.
Second consecutive day of record heat in the #BayArea. Seven daily high temperature records tied or broken today. Slight cooling forecast for Friday and much cooler by the weekend. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/hHS5dBQ1Wg— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) August 16, 2019
When the mercury began hitting record highs across Northern California this past Thursday, teachers across East Bay were, frankly, mopping their brows in classrooms that mirrored steam rooms.
“I popped into a kindergarten class to read aloud to the class, and it literally felt like a sauna inside,” said Principal Anita Summerlin at Markham Elementary School in East Oakland to CBS SF.“Within a few minutes, my entire face was sweating.”
And Summerlin was by no means alone in her sweaty woes. The district, comprised of over 80 schools, isn’t financially equipped to give each and every building its own air conditioning system. Thus, the students and teachers inside those older buildings, including those blotting inside Markham Elementary School, are left to fend for themselves when temps soar.
Or, rather: Fan for themselves.
District spokesman John Sasaki reported that nearly 200 electric fans—186, to be exact—were “on their way” to those underserved buildings, in hopes of making conditions bearable for teachers and students, alike.
“[It’s kind of hard to focus], you know, because of headaches. It was hot, tiring. But pushed through, got the work done,” said Melvin White, a junior at Skyline High School.
Nevertheless, many teachers are threatening to file a formal complaint with the district, saying that these electric fans aren’t the solution. They’re requesting for central air conditioning systems...which they’ll likely need, given the ever-increasing intensity of Bay Area summers. (PG&E is already struggling to cope with the recent uptick in A/C usages from warming NorCal temperatures, so here’s hoping they’d, theoretically, be able to accommodate new energy needs, sans hiccups.)
But, alas, the district has gone on record to say they don’t have the money to put central A/C in all the older buildings. This newly limelight with Achilles heel comes in addition to recent reporting on the severely underfunded state of Oakland’s public schools, especially around infrastructure shortcomings.
Photo: Courtesy of Jarosław Kwoczała, via Unsplash