Oppressive temperatures in Haverhill classrooms are leaving children and teachers suffering, instructors tell WHAV. (File photograph)
With September nearly half-over, the area isn’t immune to a few unseasonably warm days – but Haverhill teachers say students are suffering as a result.
Following a September 6 walk-through of Pentucket Lake and Tilton Elementary Schools, Haverhill Education Association President Ted Kempinski told WHAV learning conditions are far from satisfactory. That day, classroom temperatures hovered above 90 degrees, with teachers forced to pass out popsicles and use their own fans to keep students cool.
According to Kempinski, Hunking, Consentino, JG Whittier and Walnut Square School have upgraded air conditioning units, while schools including Nettle and Crowell do not.
“These are the conditions kids are in right now: How are kids and staff expected to achieve the excellence expected of us when this inequality exists?” the union boss argued.
Golden Hill literacy coach Deb Russell told WHAV the heat makes it just as difficult for students to focus on lessons as it does for teachers to present them.
“It’s affecting the teachers as well,” said Russell. “I’ve heard from two or three teachers who have gone home with severe headaches and almost nauseous.”
For her part, Superintendent Margaret Marotta proactively authorized two early-release days in late August, and told WHAV she encouraged staff to do “all the sensible things doctors tell us to do when it’s hot out” to keep students comfortable.
While Kempinski doesn’t fault Marotta, he does place blame on Mayor James J. Fiorentini for authorizing a “minimal” and “reactionary” budget that does little more than keep the lights on. Part of the teachers’ union’s “Heart of Haverhill” campaign attempts to make families aware of school conditions, Kempinski said.
“The City of Haverhill is responsible for providing learning conditions where every child can be successful and the city is failing them,” he told WHAV.
In response to concerns conveyed by WHAV, Marotta said heating and cooling systems across the district are being assessed to ensure proper climate control.