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Published: Tuesday, 9/10/2013

Sweltering heat weathered by Perrysburg Junior High students, staff

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A fan rolls in the back of the music room at Perrysburg Junior High, a school without air conditioning. A fan rolls in the back of the music room at Perrysburg Junior High, a school without air conditioning.
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Bill Hilt was walking around his Perrysburg Junior High School social studies class a few weeks ago with his shirt stuck to his back, wet from sweat. 

The teacher took the embarrassing, uncomfortable moment from his class without air conditioning and tried to make the best of it. He joked about it, and took a photo of it -- not shying away but embracing the need for air conditioning.

"You try to have some fun with it," he said. "It sure would be nice to have some air conditioning, but it is not the end of the world."

Most of the classrooms in the junior high school have air conditioning, but some don't, making 90 degree days such as occurred Tuesday a challenge for students and staff. 

When Perrysburg Junior High Principal Dale Wiltse looked on his phone on Monday and found the next two days were supposed to be above 90 degrees, he sent an email to tell staff members they could wear "school logo apparel and appropriate shorts."

The junior high, with its 1,150 students and 75 teachers, is the only school in the district with no central air conditioning.

Aura Norris, the district's executive director of human resources and operations, said the junior high building is so old and has been added on so many times that it would be too expensive to renovate the building to include air conditioning. The building has recently added air conditioning in a few rooms that need it, such as the auditorium and cafeteria.

"We wish we could snap our fingers and have A/C," she said. "We know it is miserable in some of the classrooms but we are putting together a plan for the junior high. We do feel better that the auditorium and cafeteria are air conditioned, so there's a place to go if it is too hot."

Several years ago, there was a levy on the ballot to renovate the junior high school, and the cost at that time was estimated at $3 million. The district collects about $1.6 million per year from its Permanent Improvement levy to maintain and upgrade all the district's facilities.

Mr. Wiltse said he took the temperature with a laser pointer -- at 1 p.m. it was 88 degrees in classrooms and by 2:15 p.m. it was 93-96 degrees.

A few years ago, there was six or seven days of consecutive heat and Mr. Wiltse said they had to make adjustable plans to keep students cool. That included sending an email out of all the available rooms and areas to teach during different hours, so if it got too bad for teachers and students, they could move the class there.

The computer rooms and eight rooms without windows are also air conditioned. Mr. Wiltse joked how students rush to rooms with air conditioning when they have a class there, and aren't eager to leave them. 

He said fans and a new window cover help keep classes a little cooler.

"People are doing the best with what we got," Mr. Wiltse said. "Kids are good, staff is good, things are going good."

Mr. Hilt said surprising students don't complain that much about the air, but parents can't believe they deal with it when they come in.

"I would like A/C, but I trust our administration to make the tough decisions. You don't know what's feasible and if you would rather have money for programs than A/C," he said. "It is only bad for the first few weeks of school, and the last few weeks.

"It is about 15-20 days that are close to unbearable, the rest of the time it is not so bad."

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.



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