Boston Public Schools students and staff are “shivering” in cold classrooms as chilly autumn weather settles in and windows are kept open for ventilation, and one school nurse said she already depleted her stash of winter coats for students.
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“Our high school kids who qualified for high in-person priority, they came in and the windows had to be wide open with fans blowing and it was a cold day and they didn’t have their winter coats with them,” said Lauren O’Malley-Singh, BPS nurse and parent.
O’Malley-Singh described Tuesday as cold, damp and uncomfortable in her office even though the heat was on.
She said she keeps some winter coats in her closet to give out to the students who need them most, and all of them were given out during the first week of school.
“I had these kids shivering in a classroom,” O’Malley-Singh said. She said cold weather can also trigger asthma attacks and sickle cell flares, health conditions many of her students struggle with.
“That is a very serious and potentially life-threatening crisis that can happen,” O’Malley-Singh said.
Roselynn Rodriguez Manzanet, a teacher at Rafael Hernandez Elementary School, used a temperature gun in her classroom to clock indoor readings of 59 degrees Tuesday morning and 61 degrees on Friday afternoon.
“We keep being told by the district that they will ‘crank the heat,’ but it’s only October and rooms are already not warm enough,” said Manzanet, who added that her students were cold even wearing a hoodie.
The only students that are in Boston school buildings for in-person learning right now are those with high needs such as English language learners, those experiencing homelessness or kids who need special education plans.
BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius has said open-air circulation from windows will be relied upon in school buildings, even through the cold winter months.
“Turn up the boilers,” Cassellius said in a previous interview with the Herald. “We will make sure that, you know, if kiddos get a little chilly we’ll make sure that they’re properly dressed.”
Neema Avashia, a teacher at McCormack Middle School, said her students were not properly dressed during school last week on Monday and Tuesday.
“I had kids in T-shirts who were shivering, I went and got them hoodies and they were still cold,” said Avashia, who added that her students’ teeth were even chattering.
Allison Doherty, who teaches children with autism at Fenway High School described Tuesday’s conditions as “very raw.”
Doherty said she doesn’t have open windows in her classroom so she has to use an air conditioner for ventilation.
“I felt cold and I had on jeans, boots and a sweater,” Doherty said.
A spokesman for BPS said the heat had been turned on in all school buildings as of Tuesday with the exception of Boston Adult Technical Academy, which was experiencing an issue with the boiler.
“We will continue to follow public health guidance and are exploring options to keep students and staff healthy, safe, and warm. Due to the age of many of our buildings, the approach to achieving a comfortable air temperature while maintaining public health guidance will vary a bit with each school,” the spokesman said.