UTAH (ABC4) – September 2022 is proving to be one for the record books. High temperatures break records nearly every day. In northern Utah, those high temperatures are interrupting learning. For the second day in a row, Weber School District has its schools on an early release schedule. In the Davis School District, window-mounted swamp coolers are running on high to keep students from getting too hot at one elementary school.    

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the entire Weber School District is on an early release schedule some classrooms saw temperatures rise above 80 degrees last week.  

District spokesperson Lane Findlay told ABC4 that the district is hoping the cooler temperatures forecasted for Thursday and Friday will help indoor temperatures be more manageable. According to the district, some of the older schools don’t have the air conditioning needed to keep up with the unusually high temperatures. Not only that, but many schools had older A/C units go down last week. 

Due to many of the cooling units being older, parts are not readily available. On top of that, a disrupted supply chain is making it even more difficult to get those parts quickly.  

The Davis School District has a handful of schools that are having a hard time keeping cool during this heatwave.  

At Bountiful Elementary School a swamp cooler kicks into high gear in Chera Fernelius’ third grade classroom.  “It’s very helpful but it comes with some downsides too,” Fernelius told ABC4.  

Fernelius told ABC4 that children directly in front of the cooler stay cool while many of their classmates remain warm. The cooler has to stay on most of the day or the classroom will quickly warm up. Even with the cooler on, Fernelius said the inside temperature still often gets up to 80 degrees. It also makes it hard for students to hear during lessons and often blows their work off their desks.   

“In the private sector nobody would stand for that,” Fernelius stated. “Nobody would stand for an 80-degree office. They would all be complaining until it got fixed.”  

Having a warm classroom is uncomfortable, but she said that is only a small part of the real problem.   

“When it’s hot, especially, they get sleepy,” she said referring to her students. “Their eyes start, and their blinks are a little longer. It’s just really hard for them to concentrate. I think just like anybody, we’re used to air conditioning at this point.”  

Fernelius told ABC4 that when she was young her school didn’t have A/C. At the time she thought nothing of it but said that’s because A/C wasn’t common in many places at the time. Her students are living in an era in which air conditioning is the norm rather than the exception and because of that, they are not used to sitting in a room that can reach 80 degrees. She told ABC4 that the “back-in-my-day” mindset is one we need to move past. Especially when we’re talking about the safety of children.  

Bountiful Elementary School was built in 1949 and is one of two in the district without air conditioning. Both schools are using swamp coolers for each classroom as a temporary solution.    

“In the 2015 bond, we air conditioned 27 schools,” Doug Anderson explained. Anderson is the director of utility services for Davis School District. The 2015 bond helped fund the cooling of one-quarter of the district’s schools. He said if that hadn’t happened, this year would be much worse than it is.  

Davis County residents will be able to vote on a new bond in November. If passed, it will provide the district with $475 million.  

According to the district: “If approved, the district plans to use the financing to rebuild Sunset Jr. High School and Bountiful Elementary, which are among the oldest schools in the district. A new elementary and junior high are also planned to be built in northwest Davis County to accommodate population growth in that area. Schools slated to be remodeled in the proposal include Bountiful High and Clearfield High. They will receive upgrades to common areas, classrooms, and air conditioning systems. Efficient air conditioning systems would also be installed in several auditoriums and gyms at Northridge High, Woods Cross High, Bountiful High, Clearfield High, and Viewmont High School.” 

According to the district, the bond will not increase current property taxes if it is passed.  

“We certainly want the kids of Davis School District to be in a safe, comfortable learning environment,” Anderson added.  

During the heatwave, the district is also implementing the following changes for recess: 

• When temperatures reach 80-89 degrees, students will be provided with the ability to drink water and take advantage of the shade. 

• If the heat is 90-99 degrees, students will continue to be provided with water and access to shade, and efforts will be made to limit physical exertion. Our staff members will also closely monitor students and look for signs of possible exhaustion and heat stroke. 

• When the mercury reaches 100 degrees, students will remain inside.