Temperatures, Tempers Soar at School Without Air Conditioning : TEMPERS: Heat Hinders Learning

Times Staff Writer

The San Fernando Valley was hot Wednesday. So were the tempers of teachers at Roscoe Elementary School.

The air conditioning of classrooms at the Sun Valley school, approved in July, 1983, still hasn't been completed.

In a letter to the Los Angeles Board of Education, the Roscoe teachers wrote, "The extreme heat precludes children from receiving full benefits from the educational program. Temperatures start at 86 at 7:30 a.m. and escalate to over 100 by noon in the classrooms.

"The effects of the heat are present among students and faculty alike and are evidenced by nose bleeds, rashes, headaches, stomach aches, nausea, faintness, absenteeism and numerous other symptoms."

Half-Day a Temporary Solution

A half-day schedule for summer schools ordered Wednesday because of the heat is only a temporary solution at Roscoe, teachers said.

Clad in shorts and a T-shirt and with her red hair pulled away from her face, second-grade teacher Eileen McDermott was having a hard time. It was 11 a.m., and McDermott was trying to keep order in a classroom in which the temperature was creeping toward 100 degrees.

"The kids have a hard time concentrating," she said. "After lunch it's unbearable. I feel nauseated, and it's difficult to teach anything."

McDermott said the heat generates additional mental stress for students and teachers by trapping the children indoors during recess. Wednesday's break-time activity was a ball game played on desk tops.

Work started on the air conditioning in August, 1984. Byron Kimball, a school district official, said the job has been plagued by delays.

Nearing 'End of Our Rope'

"We've just about reached the end of our rope," Kimball said. The contractor, he said, "is taking just an abnormally long amount of time to do the job, and we have notified him that we are not pleased with his progress."

Kimball said canceling contracts often creates greater delays.

"We just try to bird-dog the original contractor to finish the job," he said. "We've written to him at least two or three times that I'm aware of."

Meanwhile, students are sweltering. "I get tired and my head hurts," said 8-year-old Cindy Pareda. McDermott sent another second-grader to the nurse with an upset stomach.

As some of her classmates were standing in front of one another to benefit from an electric fan, Cindy and her friends looked listlessly at their coloring assignments and dreamed of cooler things.

"They have ice cream in the cafeteria for 25 cents," she said. "But some days they have it for free."

"I think they can have even more fans, lots more fans, like 13 more," shouted Joy Willis, age 6. According to McDermott, the two fans in Room 10 were brought from home by teachers.

Favor Cool Clothes

Joy and Isabel Gutierrez, 8, said they beat the heat by wearing cool clothes.

"See, I'm wearing shorts right now," Joy said. "And I'm wearing shorts too," Isabel said.

A classmate, Jeremy Faucett, 8, said the best way to avoid the heat is to stay away from school. "When I'm at home I go swimming," he said.

Jeremy approved of dismissing schools early, "so I can go home and I don't have to do more school work."

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