Heat wave hits the Hilltop


Credit: Hadley Chapman

Many rooms in the Upper School do not have air conditioning. Extreme temperatures coupled with a lack of air conditioning in boarding bedrooms prompted boarders to be sent home during the first week of school. Other Hackley day students expressed dissatisfaction with the absence of universal air conditioning in the Upper School too.

By Max Rosenblum, Politics Editor

With 2018 on pace to be the 4th hottest year on record according to NOAA data, the effects of high temperatures have made their way to Hackley’s campus. Throughout the first week of the 2018-2019 school year, temperatures consistently reached into the 90’s, with near 100% humidity causing RealFeel temperatures to climb as high as 104 degrees. For an upper school only partially climate controlled, this unprecedented early September heat wave inevitably caused discomfort.

Students and faculty whose classes were held in the Saperstein, Minot Savage, and half of the Raymond buildings had to cope without air conditioning in their classrooms. The administration was, however, by no means oblivious to this unfortunate situation —  a series of measures were enacted to make the school day as comfortable as possible.

Upper School Director Andy King explained that prior to the start of the school year, students and teachers were given permission to come to school in “Spring Dress Code.” Teachers whose classes were held in rooms not climate controlled were also allowed to move their classes to the climate controlled Goodhue buildings if rooms were open: some Modern Language teachers, whose classrooms get particularly hot during the school day, took advantage of this option.  

Perhaps the most significant measure taken was the rare decision to close boarding for two days of the first week of school. Mr. King explained that Erica Jablon, the Director of Boarding, raised her concerns surrounding student safety and wellbeing due to the heat and lack of air conditioning  in the boarders’ rooms. As a result, boarding was closed, and parents of boarders were sent an email explaining the situation, that students would have to find another place to stay, and were also offered compensation for transportation costs and the inconvenience.

Many students chose to stay with a friend who lives closer to school: junior Alston Liu explained, “I went to my friend’s house to stay for two nights. My friend was fine with it but I felt as if it was a bit of an inconvenience for them to offer their house to me — I was thankful nevertheless. I also feel like we could have survived two nights in boarding even with the heat.”

In contrast, some students felt frustrated by the lack of air conditioning. Junior Ben Marra explained his rationale: “During the first week, I found myself actually unable to concentrate or stay positive because of my physical discomfort. ” When asked if the administration has ever broached the issue of adding air conditioning, Mr. King explained that they’ve talked about it recently. However, he explained that before adding air conditioning, there are both cost and infrastructural considerations to be taken.

“Of course, cost is not a reason for Hackley not do so something, but we would have to figure out where exactly the money would come from because it is an expensive project. As for structure, putting an air conditioning unit in every window of boarding alone would blow the electrical panel for all of the upper school buildings…and for central air, there is almost certainly a significant amount of electrical work that would need to be done,” Mr. King said.

Indeed, Director of Finance Peter McAndrew added that the only feasible option for air conditioning in the rest of the upper school buildings is a geothermal air conditioning systemconventional air conditioning would require duct work that is extraordinarily difficult to complete without drop ceilings (which are nonexistent in upper school buildings). Moreover, he added that a geothermal system would have to be added along with another major renovation because geothermal air conditioning requires major piping work, more geothermal wells under the Goodhue Oval, and a larger capacity of geothermally treated water.

Although it seems that there are no immediate plans to add air conditioning to the rest of the upper school buildings for now, the administration has other ideas to serve upper school students the next time a heat wave hits. More classes could be moved to the classrooms in the climate controlled Health and Wellness Center, and open, climate controlled spaces such as Allen Hall are potential social area alternatives for students during heat waves.

Fortunately for students and faculty, with Autumn just around the corner, such a heat wave stands little chance of presenting itself until next spring.