Why our school is so hot, when it will finally cool off
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On April 10, Watkins Mill will begin converting the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system from heating to cooling mode in preparation for the warmer spring and summer months.
Montgomery County Public Schools mandates when the HVAC heating and cooling is converted in the spring and fall. WMHS uses a HVAC system where only heating or only cooling, may be used at one time. “When [students] come back from spring break, [the] rooms should be cooler,” school business administrator Julia Broyles said.
The Division of Maintenance, based out of the Clarksburg Depot, will come and shut the boilers off. Once the water cools, boilers are drained. The chiller is turned on allowing cool air distribution. “I like the feeling of air conditioning on a hot day,” junior Alice Ton said.
Most home HVAC units can easily be converted from heater to air conditioner with a switch. Unlike homes, schools need technicians to come and switch it. Schools in the county all require a manual switch. To meet demand, conversion dates are set so all schools can be accommodated.
Due to the HVAC system, schools are unable to have air conditioning before the conversion date, nor will the school have heating after the conversion occurs. “Sometimes it’s still cold outside and when [the switch] happens, [it] won’t even be warm inside,” senior Jimmy Alvear-Pozo said.
WMHS has been replacing HVAC units throughout the school in hopes of improving air quality. Although new units are in place issues of uneven room temperatures have persisted. Science teacher Lauren Wilkinson teaches in a room where temperatures can rise to above 80 degrees in the mornings.
Wilkinson opens windows and uses fans to blow cool air into the classroom. “Students are sluggish and sweaty,” Wilkinson said. “When the air conditioning comes on, I have to dress in winter clothes. It’s completely backwards.”
More HVAC units are to be replaced next summer to further improve air quality as well as help uneven classroom temperatures. “It takes a lot of money to make these corrections,” Broyles added. “We are working with MCPS to provide a solution to give us some relief.”