Teachers taking action to change uncomfortable classroom conditions

Only one of the six air conditioning units at Benjamin Franklin Career and Technical Education Center is currently working, and with classrooms reaching up to 86 degrees, teachers says it's not a productive learning environment for their students. (WCHS/WVAH)

Like many schools throughout Kanawha County, Benjamin Franklin Career and Technical Education Center has been dealing with very uncomfortable conditions in the classrooms.

While waiting for answers on when the problem will be fixed, teachers at the career center are taking action.

Carla Finch teaches a class at Benjamin Franklin that helps students prepare to take the GED, but said with the current conditions inside the classroom and temperatures reaching 86 degrees, her students can't effectively learn.

"Ultimately, it's the students that lose," Finch said. "Ben Franklin is a great career center, but when you're in a very heated environment, it's hard for them to stay awake, stay engaged. They're sluggish. It's just a poor learning environment all the way around,."

Chillers have been brought in, in an attempt to cool down the nine classrooms still without air conditioning.

Teachers have even purchased fans for their own classrooms, trying to make the situation more bearable for the students.

Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said without the $1 million needed to purchase new systems, they are working to fix the current units.

"Sometimes they have to search all over the United States for the parts because they are just so old, and for some of them, they don't even stock those parts a lot of the time," Duerring said. "So they have to figure out if they have them in another part of the country or somewhere else, and they can bring them in."

Duerring said for Benjamin Franklin, compressors are the parts needed to fix the air systems, and he said they are getting those in.

But, Finch said if a part has actually been ordered, it remains a mystery to the staff.

"The part has been on order for about two or three years," Finch said. "This is my third year at Ben Franklin. I'm not sure where that part is coming from, but it seems to be a temporary fix."

That's why the Benjamin Franklin employees have filed a grievance against the school system, hoping to get a permanent fix.

"That my fellow employees have a good safe work environment along with the students, that's the outcome we're looking for. We want them to have a good learning environment,” Finch said.

They filed that grievance with the Public Employees Grievance Board, and there is a hearing set for Sept. 8.

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