CHARLES TOWN — Washington High School students and teachers endured hot classrooms during the start of the school year last week due to air conditioning system problems.
The school’s air conditioning systems appeared to be functioning before students arrived for a new school year, according to Hans Fogle, the school system’s public information officer. But a combination of humid weather and hundreds of people arriving for classes on Aug. 23 overwhelmed the cooling system, he wrote in an email statement.
“Technicians quickly identified the problem and ordered parts,” Fogle wrote. “After students left [on Thursday], a crane was used to lift a replacement part onto the roof for installation. All units at WHS are functioning [on Friday].”
Fogle released a brief email statement about the air conditioning issues, but he declined to answer several questions from the Spirit. He would not say, for example, how many classrooms were affected by air conditioning problems or how hot those classrooms became.
A second-floor wing and a first-floor area near a cafeteria and band rooms were most affected.
School officials monitored the temperatures inside the classrooms, Fogle said. County health officials were contacted to determine at what temperatures students should be moved.
“Had temperatures exceeded safety levels, students would have moved to another part of the building,” Fogle wrote.
Temperatures surpassed 92 degrees each day last week, making it the second hottest week of the summer. Fans were set up in classrooms to try to help cool students and teachers. One call went out on social media for parents to lend the school electric fans to help ease the overheating.
Fogle stated that 25 mobile air conditioning units were installed in classrooms. “Those units will remain at the school in case HVAC performance drops below acceptable levels in the future,” he wrote.
Students and teachers in the affected areas continued to wear face coverings and masks in keeping with the school system’s COVID-19 safety measures.
By Thursday, a contractor, Southern Air from Winchester, Virginia, installed replacement equipment on the school’s roof, Fogle reported. He would not say what the equipment cost or whether any federal pandemic relief money the school system received will pay for the equipment.
Fogle declined to discuss whether any other county schools had similar troubles last week with their cooling systems.