There was some relief Thursday at Tulsa public schools plagued by air conditioning breakdowns Wednesday. The district says repairs were made at the four sites with the worst problems: Bell, Grissom, Monroe and Washington. The News on Six went to Washington High Thursday to see whether faculty and students had cooled off on this second day of the school year.
Repairs eased the heat in parts of Booker T. Washington but a thermometer in one classroom still registered around 96 at noon. Classes were closed in that wing and moved to cooler areas, such as the auditorium and teachers lounge.
Drama teacher Barbara Wilson changed her lesson plan, and students listened to science fiction theatre, a unit she'd planned for later in the year. Teachers say they're trying to move ahead with instruction, but the heat is causing some disruption.
They're proud of how students are handling the heat. "The students are doing a marvelous job of dealing with the uncomfortable conditions in some of the classrooms," said Dr. Dale Mingo, Booker T. Washington principal.
When students filled the halls, the temperature rose fast. Many carried water from home; one brought her own fan. The district has ordered hourly water breaks for students, but two fountains at Booker T were not working. "In the meantime, we are in the process of getting some water coolers out to the students so they can have more accessibility to water, cool water," said Mingo.
Maintenance worked to restore cooling at other sites, and said conditions were better at Monroe, Bell, and Grissom. While they worked on those schools Thoreau, Will Rogers and Nimitz reported air conditioners on the blink. Booker T's problems won't be completely resolved until Monday. One of two compressors had to be purchased outside Tulsa.
Many ask why the district was unaware of Booker T's cooling conditions until the first day of school. Maintenance director Doug Owens says it's because last time the machines were checked around two weeks ago, they were running and it was much cooler. "With the temperature where it is, equipment is going to be equipment, I guess. And it's going to break down when it chooses to," he said. "We did come out and do preventive maintenance on the equipment, but the parts that went out were the switches. There's nothing you can do but replace them. And normally we do that when they break down."
Tulsa Public Schools has issued a number of directives in response to the heat,
including cancellation of outdoor activities. However, they will only be restricting times for athletic and band practices. Students will also be given excused absences for any health conditions affected by the heat.
As of late Thursday, the district said they had not received any reports of health problems related to the heat.