Students returning from the countywide winter break were met with cold classrooms under 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Montgomery County Spokesperson Derek Turner claimed the temperature issues were caused by “overburdened heating systems and sensors,” along with the “old HVAC [Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning] system.” Although the technical malfunction was meant to be fixed by Wednesday, January 3, students experienced uncomfortably low temperatures throughout the rest of the week.
In addition to cold temperatures, schools across the county experienced other issues related to the frigid weather. White Oak Middle School, for example, suffered a pipe leak that flooded part of a classroom. This leak was probably caused by the extremely low temperatures, and because it continued throughout the week, White Oak was one of many schools that had to take special actions to carry on with instructional days.
In most schools, emails and voicemails were sent out to remind students to prepare for winter temperatures when deciding what to wear to school. Some teachers took the initiative and offered their rooms to teachers with particularly cold classrooms.
“My orchestra classroom was so cold we had to play our instruments in the auditorium,” said a student from Richard Montgomery, one school that faced heating issues on the first day back from break. A large number of RM’s classrooms and hallways checked in at indoor temperatures lower than 50 degrees. Other students recalled facing difficulties concentrating on their lessons because temperatures were so low.
Across the county and in nearby school systems, there were also issues with getting buses started after a dozen days of inactivity.
Thankfully, efforts by teachers and schools helped class instruction proceed as smoothly as possible during the week of January 1, and air conditioning malfunctions were mostly resolved by the following week. That is not to say some parents are not displeased with the lengthy process to get their schools’ HVAC systems functioning again, as they believe that MCPS should have taken action before students returned from winter break. As of now, spokesperson Turner says the Board’s objective is to provide maintenance crews to all schools and review their boilers and temperature sensors.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Sreelekha Chillanki of Richard Montgomery High School