Temperamental HVAC frustrates students and teachers

A chilly chemistry classroom highlights some of the HVAC problems the school has faced.
—Bushra Hasan

—by Michael Bamford & Hannah Mitlak—

“One minute you’re in a classroom with a nice temperature and then you change classes and you’re in a tundra,” junior Rameen Masood said of North’s recent heating problems.  On October 15, the school changed from cooling to heating season, and what ensued was not unlike the temperature control issues the school has been facing since the year’s start.

“On October 24, the Auxiliary Gym was about 100 degrees, and the week before, it was 50,” principal Michael Zapicchi said.  A mechanical malfunction was at the root of both temperature problems.  According to Zapicchi, in one instance, a fresh air vent was stuck in the open position, so the outside temperature flowed into the gym, making it 50 degrees.  The week after, an actuator, which opens and closes a series of flaps when the building is heated, was stuck in the open position, causing heat to enter the gym all night.

But more than a heating or cooling problem, inconsistency seems to be the biggest issue.  “Some days we’re wearing coats in there, some days we’re sweating in there, sometimes it’s smelly in there,” history teacher Greg Bugge said of his classroom in the A-wing.

The impact of this problem is tangible.  Executive Board President Ambika Nair, a senior, said, “There have been times this year when I took tests in a freezing classroom.  Although I came prepared with sweaters and jackets, I don’t think I should have to prepare both mentally and physically for tests.”

Teachers have also noticed this as in issue for student productivity.  “I think it’s hard for students to concentrate when it’s too hot or too cold,” Bugge said.

Students and faculty members alike have realized this is not an isolated incident.  Though the school building is only 18 years old, ventilation issues have plagued North for the past few years.  “It’s been an issue since day one,” senior Mihir Punji said.  “They warn you about it in freshman orientation.”

Aramark, the company to which the district outsources its HVAC system, was named one of 2014’s most ethical companies by the Ethisphere Insitute.

But in recent months, the company, which also runs more than 500 prisons across the United States, has attracted negative press. According to The Huffington Post, records from a Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Service show that there have been five reports of maggots appearing in the food preparation process since January. And the Detroit Free Press has reported that Aramark workers have smuggled contraband to some inmates and engaged in consensual sex with others.  The company did not respond to a request for comment.

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