Students frozen solid in the first week of school

Photo courtesy of Zoe Simpkins.
Photo courtesy of Zoe Simpkins.

The air conditioning at Leesville Road High School has left students shivering, covered in goosebumps and outright miserable since classes started on Aug 25.

“I sit there in my chair chattering my teeth sometimes,” said Emily Yoo, when asked about the temperature of the school. “It’s insanely hot outside, so naturally I’ll wear shorts, and I walk into school, and it’s an igloo. I bring a jacket most days now.”

Many students can be witnessed shivering in classrooms and hallways. Some of them even complain to teachers.

“I’ve never actually complained about it. I want to, but I feel like [faculty] can’t do anything about it,” said Yoo.

Barely able to stand the cold, I decided to investigate who in their right mind would want to keep the school at such an extreme temperature.

Administration directed me to Salvatore Cortese, the area facilities manager at Leesville. A warm, inviting man, Cortese took a few minutes to explain to me the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

“There’s a boiler and a chiller,” said Cortese. “The chiller has coils as big around as your arm!” He explained that the chiller cools water that comes through the coil, causing the air stream that flows into all the classes to be cooled. The boiler does the same, except that it warms the water. Who decides the temperature?

“It’s all controlled by Energy Management,” said Cortese. “They control all of the public schools in Wake County. They set the base temperature at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, but there’s 2 degrees variance. So the temperature can rise to 78 degrees, or drop to 74 degrees. Sometimes it’ll go even lower.”

This posed another question for me: then why did it feel so cold in the classrooms?

“It’s never the right temperature. [The system] is subject to error. A teacher will call me and say, ‘Oh, I’m freezing in here!’ So then I have to call Energy Management. I give them a number that identifies the classroom, and then they go in and change the temperature of that classroom,” explained Cortese. “People complain all the time.”

Unfortunately, there is no other way to combat the cold at the school besides sweaters and jeans. From now on, I’ll be wearing warm clothes.



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