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Record heat impacts classrooms without AC in Portland

Teachers tell KGW they have been documenting their temperature gauge for the past week and have seen it reach 83 to 87 degrees inside the classroom.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland saw recording breaking temperatures this month with the most 90-degree days during the month of May — which is unseasonably hot. 

With only a month left of the school year, the rising temperatures have affected kids and teachers in older schools in the Portland area that don't have air conditioning.   

"I should not have to worry about the heating system or the cooling system at my child's school," said Alicia Bennett.

Bennett is demanding change. She said her fourth grade son's classroom at Marysville Elementary in Southeast Portland reached uncomfortable temperatures this week. 

Teachers tell KGW they have been documenting their temperature gauge for the past week and have seen 83 to 87 degrees inside the classroom.

Credit: KGW

"Everyone is sweating because it's so hot," said Conan Nguyen, a fifth grader at Marysville. “We’re learning about how to write essays and a lot of things like that so it makes it hard to focus and there’s like a fan in the back that doesn’t really do much.” 

This is an issue many schools without AC have dealt with in recent years as spring and summer temperatures keep getting hotter in the Pacific Northwest.

Teachers KGW spoke with say they also have difficulty staying focused while teaching their students in these extremely hot conditions. A lot of schools were built decades ago when the Northwest was cooler and most didn't have AC.

“If we go down here, she has to take the kids outside when there’s a ‘cool breeze’ so they can cool down,” said Bennett, showing a picture of her son and other classmates outside. “It was 87 degrees in the classroom as you can see.” 

The hottest temps were only in true-summer when kids weren't in class. But other schools are much older than that.

Marysville was built in 1921 — making it 102 years old.

"I would like to see a whole change with the district,” said Bennett. “The HVAC system needs to be updated, we need AC and heat in here during the winter and the summer. Our kids shouldn't have to deal with this and now I'm worried about their health." 

In a Portland Public Schools (PPS) statement to KGW, the schools will be using their ventilation systems overnight, from midnight to 3:00 a.m., to bring in cooler air. School leaders will also modify school activities when needed for students and staff to keep them cool from the heat. 

“The health and safety of our students and staff is our utmost priority and we will make the necessary accommodations to ensure an environment conducive to teaching and learning,” said PPS in the statement. 

PPS confirms just 12 of its 81 schools have AC.

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