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It’s hot: Air conditioning broken at Montebello schools, teachers say

Miko Issaka

Sept. 21, 2019

Paul Chavez, a special education English teacher at Schurr High School in Montebello, often goes home with headaches. The reason, he said, is that it’s too hot and the air conditioning unit in his classroom often doesn’t work.
To get out of the heat, Chavez said he takes his class outside to a covered eating area.
“I think we’d rather be outside for the breeze rather than be in a classroom with no breeze at all,” he said.
Chavez’s classroom isn’t the only one with such problems, and that’s why the Montebello Teachers Association in its weekly newsletter, “MTA CONTACT,” complained about many air conditioning units breaking in many classrooms.
“Many classrooms and even entire buildings have experienced extremely high temperatures the last few days,” according to the unsigned article in the Sept. 16 newsletter. “The district doesn’t have enough technicians on staff to even to get to all the sites with A/C issues which compounds the problem.”
In an emailed response, Angel Barnuevo, district spokesman, acknowledged the problem, saying administrators and others “are fully aware and already in the process of working diligently to resolve the air conditioning issues.”
In the meantime, district officials will consider relocating students to cooler areas, providing ice water, and adjusting the school schedule, Barnuevo wrote.
Already, the district has completed a study of all its air conditioning systems, he said.
“Vendors have walked our schools, and we are currently awaiting cost proposals for the scope of work to be performed,” he said.
In October, the school board is scheduled to receive an update, Barnuevo wrote.
Teachers association President Doug Patzkowski said the district has only three air conditioning technicians, and there are issues at many schools, including three of the four high schools, La Merced and Macy intermediate schools and Washington Elementary School.
The problem is many of the classrooms were designed with air conditioning in mind and don’t have any windows to open and bring in a breeze or fresh air, he said. La Merced and Washington are examples of that.
The problems were so bad at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Bell Gardens that school board held a special meeting Sept. 7 to award an emergency contract without competitive bids for repairs and installation of a new air conditioning unit. The cost was $17,695.
Patzkowski said teachers at other schools also hope to see repair personnel soon: “Other schools are feeling pretty warm.”
Susan Larios, a counselor at Bell Gardens High for the last 12 years, said only one air conditioner in her building works; the one for her office hasn’t worked since the beginning of July.
“Our job requires a lot of confidentiality and closed doors,” Larios said. “But we can’t even close the doors because it’s hot, humid and stuffy. We turn off all of our lights. I’ve never seen anything so bad.”
Jessica Zwaal, an eighth grade language arts and social studies teacher at Macy Intermediate in Monterey Park, said the district should provide teachers with fans.
Several air conditioning units have gone down at her school, Zwaal said. Some teachers have changed classrooms more than once in search of a room with working air conditioning, she added.
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