Some Stamford teachers complain hot classrooms are ‘roasting;’ officials say AC will be standard in new schools

Photo of Ignacio Laguarda
Dolan Middle School in Stamford, Conn.

Dolan Middle School in Stamford, Conn.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

STAMFORD — In some teacher classrooms in Stamford during the first week of school, the thermostat reads close to 90 degrees during the day.

That’s the reason some are calling for the district to move to early dismissal for the rest of the week, as Bridgeport Public Schools did this week.

“We’re roasting in here,” said Ruth-Terry Walden, a teacher at Westhill High School and one of the school’s representatives for the Stamford Education Association teacher’s union.

At Dolan Middle School, teacher and SEA representative Laura Dickey said classrooms in the school’s third floor have been uncomfortably hot all week. She’s taken her students outside to sit under trees in an effort to combat the heat.

“This is brutal,” she said. “You can’t teach in this.”

At Dolan, there’s air conditioning in the school’s office and media center, Dickey said, but not in every classroom.

“The students are just sitting here sweating,” she said.

Nine of Stamford’s public schools have building-wide air conditioning, while the rest have partial cooling, according to Superintendent Tamu Lucero.

“We work very closely with our building leaders on warmer days to create the best environment using identified ‘cooling areas’ for students and staff in each of our school buildings,” Lucero wrote, in an emailed response. “We also are in regular communication with the Stamford Health Department for guidance and support.”

As the district moves toward building a slew of new school buildings, Lucero noted that the district’s master facilities plan calls for air conditioning be added to all new and renovated structures.

John Corcoran, president of the SEA, said he had received messages from teachers at Westhill, Dolan, Stamford High School and Cloonan Middle School about excessive heat inside those buildings.

But not all teachers expressed frustration.

“Some teachers said, ‘Yes it’s hot, but we’re going to go with the flow,’” Corcoran said.

The recently elected teacher union president said he has spoken with Lucero and that they have discussed setting up protocols in the future to more clearly delineate next steps if classrooms reach a certain temperature.

Back in 2015, the SEA filed a grievance against the district for excessive heat in classrooms. During that process, the district’s human resources department outlined its response to the issue, which included releasing students and staff early “on a day when heat and humidity were projected to be at a very high level.”

“We’re going to work together to figure out what protocols can be put into effect going forward when it comes to excessive heat,” Corcoran said.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures reached 87 degrees in Stamford on Tuesday, but the heat index was in the low 90s. The high for Wednesday is expected to be roughly 84 degrees.

“It starts getting to be 90 degrees in buildings, it’s going to impede teaching and learning,” Corcoran said.

ignacio.laguarda@stamfordadvocate.com