DELHI TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Windows were open at Delhi Middle School Wednesday, an old-school solution to a problem not unique to the Oak Hills Local School District: lack of air conditioning.
According to images submitted to WCPO by a district employee who asked to remain anonymous, their classroom in the middle school building on multiple occasions has reached temperatures exceeding 90 degrees when temperatures earlier this week reached record highs for this time of the year, a week and a half before the district's schools dismiss for summer break.
The employee said they have seen temperatures in the building exceed 100 degrees.
Air conditioning is still not standard in all Greater Cincinnati school districts.
Scott DiMauro is the president of the Ohio Education Association teachers’ union. He said, “[Heat] makes it hard for kids to concentrate, learn and, quite frankly, depending on how hot it gets, it can be unsafe, and sometimes schools have to shut down.”
No air conditioning in schools with older buildings, like Oak Hills and nearby Finneytown, for example, is not uncommon. Other districts, like Cincinnati Public Schools, Kenton County, and Mason City Schools, have made the upgrade.
But it's not a cheap fix: Oak Hills says it could cost millions of dollars per building to install AC systems.
However, the teachers’ union said there’s an opportunity to make air conditioning standard, because the federal government sent Ohio schools $4.5 billion to deal with pandemic-related issues. DiMauro said HVAC upgrades are eligible for that funding.
"We have a particular interest in air quality, coming out of the pandemic,” said DiMauro. “Good air flow is really critical for health and safety of the students."
Oak Hills spokesperson Krista Ramsey told WCPO the district does not plan to use its federal aid on AC because it would use too much of the money, primarily because the school year will conclude in roughly a week and students typically leave their buildings before the hottest time of the day.
Funding for such improvements likely would need to come from a local vote on a bond issue, Ramsey said.
Toward a solution, she said employees open windows and place fans in classrooms and hallways each day. She said teachers and students can rotate to rooms with AC, and the district can cancel school if it gets too hot.
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