Primary school teachers ask for air conditioning

by Laura Bednar

Sept. 19 board of education meeting

Several Independence Primary School teachers asked school board members to make air conditioning a priority in all elementary school classrooms.

“It’s been an issue for decades, and we haven’t found any solutions,” said first-grade teacher Nicki Lee. She added that the heat does not offer a positive learning environment and by skirting the issue, “the health and well-being of our students and staff continues to be pushed to the wayside.”

One teacher said there are 20 classrooms without air conditioning. Lee said instead of central air, the school could follow in the footsteps of St. Michael Catholic School and install A/C units in each classroom.

Board President Joan Mencl said the electrical grid could not sustain that many units. She said she is looking into the possibility of air conditioning generators, similar to what is used on a construction site, which could be rented for a few weeks when the weather is the hottest.

Lee said many parents with businesses would probably contribute funds for the air conditioning generator if asked. “We can’t keep leaning on the crutch of ‘when we get a new school building,’” she said.

Third-grade teacher Deborah Klag said during an especially hot day this year she asked another teacher to take over because she wasn’t feeling well.

Superintendent Ben Hegedish said he understands it is uncomfortable to be in the heat and “the learning environment is atrocious.” He noted that in extreme heat, students are moved to areas with air conditioning within the primary school or can be bused to another building.

IPS Principal T.J. Ebert thanked teachers and staff for their flexibility on hot days.

Hegedish acknowledged that teaching in temperatures above 80 is challenging, and installing air conditioning is “definitely on the radar.”

In other news

Service Manager Francine Kane said with the help of custodians and substitutes, the district has enough bus drivers. There are 12 bus routes and 10 drivers. One retired driver has returned to a full route.

“Everyone is driving to make ends meet,” said Kane.

Board members approved canceling classes on April 8, 2024, to allow students to experience the solar eclipse. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Hegedish. He added that most schools in the area will not have school that day.

Tuition was set at $15,951, up $350 from last year. Hegedish said students in special circumstances pay tuition, such as a child placed in the district by the court system. Tuition rates are set by the state and are based on expenditures per pupil. ∞