It is no secret that the vast majority of Brick Township schools are not air conditioned, leading some parents to question the safety of sending children to school where they will be required to wear a face mask in a hot classroom. But the district’s superintendent said he will exercise diligence in determining if it is too hot for students and how to give them a proper break come September.
The air conditioning issue caught speed over the past week, as parents gathered on social media channels to debate the situation. Indeed, one point of controversy centered on a state policy requiring more than half of the air emanating from air conditioning units to be fresh air rather than recirculated air. If most of the air was recirculated, the district would be barred by the state Department of Education from turning the units on in the first place.
Fortunately, the two schools which are fully air conditioned, Brick Memorial High School and Brick Township High School, have industrial HVAC units where fresh air intake can be adjusted, said Superintendent Thomas Farrell.
“The two high schools have full HVAC and those systems allow you to set a fresh air intake,” he said. “From the state’s perspective, the more fresh air, the better.”
Brick’s systems will allow the high schools to use between 60 and 90 percent fresh air that is chilled and sent through vents.
For the district’s elementary and middle schools, most have a multi-purpose “split unit” system that is not adjustable and, in some cases, will not be able to be turned on. But in these schools, only a few areas such as the library and resource rooms are air conditioned. The state also does not allow window-style air conditioning units in educational spaces.
Farrell said classroom windows can open to allow fresh air inside, and officials will make common-sense decisions about how hot days are managed.
“We’re building in mask-breaks for our kids to be able to go outside and meet the recess requirements,” said Farrell. “The parents have been great. I know we can’t please everybody, and I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I’m grateful for the staff we have in this district. Everybody has really worked so hard to start off this school year.”
The district also “can call it” and switch to an all-remote day if it is determined that the temperature will simply be too hot, Farrell said.
But on a daily basis: “We have to provide fans for air flow and we’re going out of our way to accommodate staff and students at this tough time,” he said.