Students and teachers of at least three year-round elementary schools in Northeast Los Angeles may get relief from summer heat under a plan tentatively approved last week by the Los Angeles school board to air-condition classrooms.
If formally approved during final budget hearings scheduled for Aug. 26, some of the $6.2 million earmarked to air-condition 43 year-round schools in the district will be used to install additional air conditioning by next summer at Aldama Elementary School in Highland Park, Aragon Avenue School in Glassell Park and Micheltorena Street School in Silver Lake.
Funds to pay for design of an air-conditioning system at the Fletcher Drive School in Glassell Park will also be included in the plan.
"It's amazing that people won't shop at a supermarket without air conditioning, yet we send our kids to school in the heat for six hours, " said Aldama Principal Allyn Shapiro.
Certain of Funding
Though state funding is needed to complete plans at Aragon, Aldama, Fletcher Drive and Micheltorena schools, district officials say they are certain the money will be provided.
Micheltorena Street School, which began a year-round schedule in 1981, is scheduled to receive $296,000 from the district. Nearly $1 million in state construction money is needed to complete the air-conditioning project because it is tied to a plan to renovate the school's main building, district officials said. As at other year-round classrooms without air conditioning, the 14 classrooms in Micheltorena's main building have electric fans to keep temperatures down.
"When I come in in the morning, it's 80 degrees because we can't keep the windows open at night, and it goes up from there," said Denise Featherstone, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher. "The fans just stir the hot air around."
'Gets Too Cold'
During the past two years the district has installed air conditioning in the 12 portable classrooms at Micheltorena, acting Principal Monroe Spiesman said. But even the air-cooled classrooms are not without problems.
"I don't use the air all the time because it gets too cold," said Karen Johnson, a first-grade teacher. "When I use it, I have to leave the door open. But without it, I wouldn't be able to work."
Los Angeles Unifed School District Board of Education member Jackie Goldberg last week said that schools that were part of the original switch to a year-round schedule in 1980 should get priority in this year's air-conditioning project. She said she has three of the four votes needed on the board to approve her idea.
Her proposal has raised concerns that Micheltorena, which switched a year later, might have to wait another year for air conditioning.
But district business manager Doug Brown said this week that the Micheltorena project will proceed regardless of any policy change.
"The design work is done; the contract has been bid. It's so far along that, even if a change goes through, there are sufficient funds to award the contract," Brown said.
Summer heat has worn the patience of Doug Tuttle, who has taught for 12 years at Aldama School in Highland Park. Since his school went year-round in 1980, the heat has caused him to think of transferring to another area, he said.
"I have two fans in my classroom, but it's still 80 degrees on moderate days during the summer," Tuttle said. "I have to put paperweights on all the papers because of the fans. . . . We've been promised air conditioning for a long time."
Aldama school is scheduled to receive $125,000 in district money to air-condition 15 of the school's 22 classrooms. Officials expect an additional $100,000 in state funds for the construction, which is scheduled to start by next summer.
For Aldama fifth-grader Reuben Escandon, relief has been slow in coming.
"I can't work when it's too hot," Reuben said. "When we open the windows I can't hear because of the cars."
Fifth-grader Victor Chirino, echoing the sentiments of most of the students interviewed, said: "When it gets real hot, usually you feel like sleeping."
The most sought-after workplace for students and teachers who normally spend their days in one of the rooms without air conditioning, Shapiro said, is the computer lab, which has been air-conditioned since 1980.
Aldama office secretary Miggy Medina, who on hot days directs the heavy traffic of overheated students suffering nausea to the nurse's office, said that by noon she feels like taking another shower.
"There are days when I feel like transferring," Medina said.
'Like Wilted Lettuce'
Aldama fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Pat Trivers said: "Normally, the students are so energetic. It's hard to see them sitting there like wilted lettuce."