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AJA By The Numbers

Analyzing AJA’s Air Conditioning

The following article contains various room temperatures throughout the AJA High School. Temperatures were recorded in Fahrenheit with a thermometer under as controlled conditions as possible over the course of one week.

Walking through the AJA High School, one could easily envision some camels strolling down the 400s hallway. They may imagine the sun beaming down or the tiled floors turning to sand underneath their feet. As the end of the hall approaches, one would not be surprised to feel a sudden breeze while witnessing a waddle of penguins sliding across the snow-white dry-erase boards of the Beit Midrash. Going up the stairs, one might expect to find polar bears experimenting with solutions in the bio lab or the kangaroos and cacti sprouting in the physics lab.

Although there may not be camels, penguins, or polar bears in the AJA High School building, the room temperatures do fluctuate significantly. Throughout the day, temperatures in various rooms range within 13 degrees. Freshman Talia Sarnat reported that she struggles with the “transition” in temperatures. Talia mentioned that she finds it difficult to balance between “trying to dress based on the temperature outside but also [based] on the temperature in the school.”

In the 400s hallway, afternoon temperatures average at 75.7 degrees, with a range from 72 degrees to 77.6 degrees. For Hebrew teacher Ronit Ben-Amotz, this difference in temperature makes a huge impact on her comfort in her classroom. Although Morah Ronit prefers warmer temperatures, once her room reaches above 74 degrees, “it’s too hot… I can’t function.”

Ms. Helen Haney, Chief Financial Officer, explained that the warmer temperatures in the 400s hallway are in part due to the improper structure of the ductwork above the hall. She added that the builders of the new addition of the High School “thought that the systems that they have in place would work,” but, “it’s not really done properly.” The improper airflow is worst for Judaic studies teacher Rabbi Raif Melhado, whose classroom is located at the very end of the 400s hallway. With afternoon temperatures reaching 77.4 degrees, Rabbi Melhado’s room has the highest average temperature of the hallway, and he expressed that his room was “too hot” 87.5% of the time in a daily form sent out to teachers. He added that he only ranked the temperatures as “just right” in the mornings due to cooler outside temperatures. Despite the warm temperatures, Rabbi Melhado appreciated Head of High School Dr. Sim Pearl’s “conscientious” response to the heat by working on installing a portable AC unit in his room. “I absolutely am compassionate and empathetic about this, and I feel horrible for the teachers,” emphasized Dr. Pearl. He explained that he has tried his best to “track down fans… [but] it’s not enough.”

In the Beit Midrash and student commons area, where Judaics teacher Morah Galia Magen works, temperatures reach significantly lower numbers than that of the 400s hallway, with an average temperature of about 67.6 degrees. Morah Galia recalled that “there were a couple of days that I just didn’t feel good during school because I was too cold.” Although she “tries to bring a jacket all the time,” she forgets from time to time. Mr. David Byron, a teacher in the 400s hallway who expressed his classroom as being “hot” 75% of the afternoons recorded, agreed, noting that although he didn’t need a sweatshirt in his classroom during the afternoon, “it was definitely much colder in the commons.”

Although the temperatures downstairs demonstrate relative consistencies in their cold or hot temperatures, the classrooms upstairs vary significantly. Mrs. Hana Hecht’s room reached temperatures of up to 78.1 degrees, while next door in the bio lab, cooler temperatures ranged throughout the 60s. Dr. Corrie Stephenson, who teaches in the bio lab, attributed these temperatures to “the sensors in our rooms [that] are not reading and reporting back to the thermostats” downstairs. Although Mrs. Hecht’s room is extremely hot, “the thermostats are showing that it’s much colder than it actually is.” In fact, Danit Kutner, a freshman who has a class in Mrs. Hecht’s room, recalled a day when the room was noticeably hotter and the class had to move outside. Sophomore Yael Mainzer agreed, adding that the warmer classrooms “make it very difficult to focus on my learning.”

Overall, Ms. Haney described the air conditioning issues as “multifold, [and] it has lots of little pieces.” Currently, the school is in the process of looking into quotes to repair the HVAC and get a better understanding of what is wrong. Ms. Haney explained that there is a big HVAC unit above the 400s hallway, but “the components in that hallway actually are not talking properly to that unit upstairs.” Fixing the HVAC system might involve upgrading the unit upstairs and reworking the duct system throughout the hallway.

Reflecting on the dilemmas involved with repairing the HVAC, Dr. Pearl felt that “a kind of perfect storm happened.” The owner of the HVAC company had contracted COVID-19 which slowed the repair progress. Furthermore, Ms. Haney states that the HVAC companies report that they fixed the temperature issues, when in reality they remain. Therefore, her goal at the moment is “really understanding the issue more ourselves” in order to fix the problem “once and for all.” Dr. Pearl concluded, “The teachers have been absolutely wonderful in putting up with us, and God willing… this will be fixed in a permanent way.” Already, the situation in warmer classrooms has seen improvement as winter approaches. Despite this, Dr. Pearl feels determined to resolve this issue: “It won’t be as much of an issue [in the winter], but it has got to be taken care of.”

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