The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), in its welcome-back message to students last month, assured them, “Maintenance crews have been working to get schools ready for today’s opening, repairing aging air-conditioning systems and upgrading campuses to support student success.”
They certainly didn’t want a rerun of last September’s “repair crisis,” when 2,000 pending service calls left some students in rooms with 92-degree temperatures.
But they got it anyway.
The mammoth school district, with some 32,000 classrooms, has more than 2,600 requests for air-conditioning service, receiving 341 on Tuesday alone, LAUSD spokeswoman Elvia Cano told the Los Angeles Daily News. She said the district maintenance workers get fewer than 100 calls a day during normal heat and are capable of clearing 1,000 calls for service a week.
Record heat and uncommonly high humidity in the Los Angeles area have left thousands without electricity and others wondering how they ended up in Florida. Most of the air-conditioning breakdowns were in the disaffected suburban San Fernando Valley, north of the L.A. Basin on the other side of the mountains.
Some students without air-conditioning were shoehorned into more fortunate classrooms while others made do with fans during the heat wave that has reached into triple digits.
LAUSD justifiably noted in its welcome-back message that student success is linked to the quality of schools they attend. Lackluster maintenance can be a leading indicator of a substandard education.
LAUSD, which has a high percentage of low-income students and English learners, regularly performs worse than the state average on standardized tests. The district’s students did much worse on new exams this year using the Common Core standards and just-released figures indicate that poorer schools in the district fared worse than wealthier ones.
Last month, in slightly cooler times, LAUSD Director of Maintenance Roger Finstad told LA School Report that a $300-million infusion of bond money and the ability to hire more workers bode well for the district. “We have a pretty good handle on it this year,” he said, while noting that there will be problems. “A huge amount of the systems are antiquated, repairs are inevitable.”
Finstad said at the time there were 1,400 outstanding air-conditioning service orders, but “in the overall scheme of things, that’s not bad. We have it under control.”