As students across the state are forced to sweat it out in hot classrooms some school leaders can't take the heat, literally. We've learned that some Department of Education employees went home when their air conditioning didn't work recently.
On September 26 public school students wanted to send a message that it is tough to work in hot sticky classrooms so they protested at the state capitol. Perhaps fate was on their side because that same day the air conditioning at the Queen Liliuokalani building broke. That happens to be where Department of Education executives work.
They needed to order the replacement part from the mainland. And for a week and a half sources say DOE employees were miserable. They were complaining about headaches, nausea and asthma. They were given the okay to dress more casual, encouraged to take more breaks and some left work early.
"It was definitely hot over there at the department," said State Senator Jill Tokuda, (D) Education Committee Chair.
State Senator Tokuda went to meetings at the broken building and experienced the hot temperatures.
"Environmental conditions always impact one's ability to work," said Sen. Tokuda. "Heat is difficult for anyone to deal with and the kinds of conditions that they had to deal with because of this air conditioning break were very difficult. That's a very old building it's like a box. Unlike classrooms there were no doors that opened out to the outside for any of those particular offices."
While hot in the office building many students and teachers are expected to work in stifling conditions every day. Only a dozen of the 255 public school campuses in the state are fully air conditioned.
However even if the higher ups found out firsthand how hard it is to work in the heat it's not an easy fix. The DOE estimates it would cost $1.7 billion for air conditioning and that's not including the higher monthly electricity bill. Also many campuses are really old and may not be able to handle central A/C.
"The larger question really does come down to how can we get the resources to be able to do this," said Sen. Tokuda.
Still the DOE is assessing school needs and has updated the top ten schools next in line to get air conditioned classrooms, one of which is Campbell High which organized the protest that sent the message and found fate on its side.
DOE's UPDATED AC PRIORITY LIST
*Campbell High:last October, opened a brand new, two-story, 10-classroom building that is fully air-conditioned.Of the 138 classrooms at Campbell, there are 40 classrooms that have AC.
SCHOOLS PREVIOUSLY LISTED ON AC PRIORITY LIST:
Maili -completed in 2002
Kihei -completed in 2007
Kamehameha III -completed in 2010
Lokelani Intermediate -phase I completed in 2011, phase II underway and is expected to be complete in 2015.