AC Coming to NHS, but Heat Remains for Now


Student cools off by fan in hot classroom.

Brett Huser, Reporter

Throughout all schools in states with warm climates, such as California, it would make sense to have air conditioning in classrooms. Although this is not currently the case at Novato High, improvements are coming.
As the new school year has begun, temperatures have been consistently climbing up to the 80s and 90s throughout these late summer/early fall days. Novato High students and teachers have been feeling the heat in crowded classrooms, specifically in the afternoon classes.
As of now, the only buildings on campus which have access to air conditioning are the newly installed Center For The Arts and Center for the Sciences buildings, and wings 2800, 2900, 3200, 3300, and 3600. The rest of the old brick building classrooms, built in the 1950s, are left without any cooling. This calculates to about 35% of classrooms on campus with air conditioning.
Novato High social studies teacher Evan Underwood-Jett has found it hard to keep his classroom cool on these hot days.
“It is cooking in the late afternoon on some days. I’d say it’s anywhere between 85 and 90 degrees inside of my room,” said Underwood-Jett.
The only ways to make these classrooms a bit cooler are to open up windows and doors or to turn on cooling fans. However, this doesn’t do much, as there is never a breeze on these boiling, dry days, and cooling fans aren’t powerful enough to cool an entire classroom. Teachers are often sending their students outside to do their work at tables and benches, to try to get some fresh air and cool off a bit.
“I have tried just about everything,” said Underwood-Jett. “I’ve started ventilating early in the morning, to try to get some cold air in here. Sometimes we open up the door and turn the fan on but nothing particularly seems to work.”
With these uncontrollably hot classrooms, many students have found it hard to focus in class, and some teachers have had to lower their expectations for class productivity and participation on these warm days.
Underwood-Jett says the heat is a quandary for his classes at times.
“I feel like it (the heat) is one of the biggest detriments to afternoon classes,” he said. “I know there are a lot of studies that show climate control has the biggest impact on productivity, whether it’s workers or students.”
Novato High senior Ethen Dias shared his thoughts.
“The classrooms always feel the hottest near the end of the day in 6th and 7th period,” said Dias. “I find myself feeling dehydrated and tired in these hot classrooms, and it’s extremely hard to focus when the temperature of the classroom is around 85.”
Novato is behind in comparison to the rest of the Marin County high schools, as almost all of them have air conditioning in the majority of their classrooms. This may be because Novato High has kept their old brick-building classrooms for a long time now, while other schools have consistently been constructing and renovating newer classrooms with air conditioning over the years.
San Marin High senior Daniel Ghanbarzadeh is pleased with the persistent air conditioning in all of his school’s classrooms.
“It’s usually always cool in the classrooms. There’s usually at least one door open as the AC is running,” he said. “Through the first two months of school, I can’t say I have experienced a day where it is too hot in class.”
This ongoing problem here at Novato High is likely to be solved in the near future, as there is a plan to install air conditioning in all classrooms in the Summer of 2022. According to the Executive Director of Facilities, Mike Woolard, the entire air conditioning project will be funded by the Measure G Bond program that was passed by the Novato citizens back in 2016. Novato High, along with Rancho Elementary and Lu Sutton Elementary, are the three schools getting air conditioning this summer. The project will be started immediately after the last day of school in June 2022 and will be completed by the first day of school in the 2022-23 school year.
Woolard went into more details about the installment plan in an email.
“The Board of Trustees for Novato Unified School District voted to ensure every school site in the District was outfitted with an HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system capable of cooling and heating to ensure safety and equality for all students. We are designing a project that removes the existing furnace heaters in classrooms and replaces that equipment with a heat pump – a piece of equipment that can perform both heating and cooling. Current code requirements ensure that carbon dioxide levels are monitored so needed air circulation is provided, as needed, to keep CO2 levels low, which prevents stale air in the classroom.”
Novato High students and staff are optimistic about this future installment. “I think the school would see an increase in academic performance if they invested in more AC because more students would feel relaxed and in the perfect environment to learn,” said Dias.
Underwood-Jett is also supportive of the installment plan.
“Maybe it (air conditioning) wasn’t necessary 20 years ago, but as things heat up and it seems like it is more and more common to have cooling in classrooms, I think it’d be important to invest in air conditioning,” he said.
Woolard echoed these sentiments.
“The lack of fresh air and air circulation causes negative learning impacts and greatly reduces learning effectiveness. The installation of air conditioning provides a safe and comfortable environment during those hot days that eliminates all of those issues,” he said.
Underclassmen and future Novato High students can look forward to having cool, air-conditioned classrooms throughout the day for years to come. But for now, we will have to push through this final year of learning in uncooled, sweltering classrooms.