Keeping cool is key in Hawaii classrooms

Let’s get right to the point. A hot, stuffy classroom is not conducive to learning. How do we know this? Common sense. When we’re at home on one of those warm and humid days, if we don’t have air conditioning, we have fans blowing on us from every direction. When we’re overheating and sweating, all we want to do is rest and drink something cold, perhaps watch TV. But to study? To listen to the teacher? To take in that day’s lesson? A daunting task even on the coolest days.

So, it’s not too surprising that some Hawaii students sometimes struggle with courses when you consider that the Aloha State has more than 1,000 classrooms without air conditioning.

Listening to the teacher and actually absorbing what they are saying is difficult. It’s a bad situation for the teacher and the students and we need to do better. We all know the importance of the learning environment.

The Hawaii State Department of Education continues to take steps to monitor and adjust classroom temperatures but is not moving fast enough on this issue for some. The HIDOE continues to abate heat through a combination of cooling strategies.

The $100 million appropriated by the Hawaii State Legislature helped to cool down 1,190 classrooms to date, with contracts set for more than 1,300 classrooms. HIDOE’s heat abatement efforts also consist of installing ceiling fans, using nighttime ventilation, painting roofs with heat-reflective coating and extending shade.Its announcement on Thursday gives hope all classrooms will eventually be cooled down and optimize education.

In a partnership with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, classroom temperatures and environmental data collected at public school campuses will be posted to a new website. Beginning this month, the HIDOE Thermal Comfort website will feature data from 37 schools with weather stations and 62 schools with indoor sensors that monitor classroom temperatures statewide.

Solar-powered weather stations mounted on these schools transmit data to a receiver in the school office, which is then posted to the new HIDOE Thermal Comfort website. Indoor classroom temperatures are monitored by the use of 737 data loggers that record the temperature and humidity every 30 minutes.

“The Thermal Comfort portal is an important tool we use for heat abatement decisions,” said Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent, Office of School Facilities and Support Services. “The public now has the opportunity to view the environmental conditions we monitor when determining the best cooling method for a classroom.”

Teachers and students will have the opportunity to use the posted data for class projects. Additionally, information on local microclimates — climates of small-scale areas — will be useful for sustainable design across Hawaii.

“The linkage to interior environmental conditions also offers the opportunity to further the understanding between environment and building performance,” said Rick Rocheleau, HNEI director. “HNEI has been using the data to analyze performance of its net-zero classrooms on both Oahu and Kauai with the ultimate goal of encouraging sustainable design.”

HIDOE has weather stations and classroom sensors at schools on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. In some cases, weather stations may be installed at specific schools when it is determined that mircoclimates caused by landforms, vegetation or urban development are creating distinct thermal conditions.

Visit to access the HIDOE Thermal Comfort website, which was built by MKThink in collaboration the data analytics firm, RoundhouseOne.

  1. Steve Martin January 26, 2018 8:15 am Reply

    I was just reading a statement made by our Governor Ige speaking our how proud he is of his accomplishments of finally getting the schools cooled off. I think he might have forgot about all the classrooms on Kauai. I have written a couple of letters regarding the hot classrooms and there is no reason any our children and in my case my grandchildren should have to attend a hot class room for any reason. I consider this a form of child abuse.

  2. Carrice Gardner January 26, 2018 9:33 am Reply

    Please give credit where it is due. Governor Ige announced his plan to air condition 1,000 classrooms during his 2016 State of the State address. Today, with the aid of the Hawaii State Legislature and Department of Education, he has fulfilled and exceeded his goal. Moreover he took an innovative approach and chose energy efficient solar-powered systems, along with other heat abatement strategies, to prevent increasing utility bills and overtaxing the schools’ electrical grid. Prior to his tenure, there was little to no movement in the area to cool our classrooms. Under Governor Ige’s leadership, our State has invested more in classrooms than in previous years. Thank you governor!

  3. Steve Martin January 27, 2018 7:30 pm Reply

    Ms. Gardner…One of my grand kids has a/c the other one has none. How would you like it if one of your children had it and the other one started back to school in 100 degree classroom? Did you throughly read the letter above to understand what is taking place? It’s the typical politician patting himself on the back for his halfas accomplishments and you think it’s wonderful. If there wasn’t a/c’s in the administrations offices or Governor ige’s office there would be a literal melt down with people not showing up for work. I’m sorry but if we can’t take care of all our classrooms for all children then the governor has no business patting anybody’s backs. As we know the states policies don’t contain the word “creative” so maybe we need to cut a dozen or so of the administrators jobs earning six figure salaries and spend the money getting a/c’s done for all of children at the same time. Since this is how our governor works he will definitely not get a vote from me and you would be foolish for continuing your wonderful speeches about his accomplishments. I’m sorry if you might not like my comment,but my grandchildren and the rest of students should not be picked as to who gets a/c and doesn’t period. Thank you!

    1. Carrice Gardner January 29, 2018 4:13 pm Reply

      Mr. Martin, although this is an important issue to you, you are picking on the person who has done the most to cool our schools. I understand your concern. As a product of Kauai’s public schools I know what it’s like to be in a hot classroom, (and in my day there were no fans or air conditioners.) However I disagree with your critique. With limited state funds, an “all at once” or nothing approaching like you suggest would mean zero classrooms would have been cooled to date. Due to limited resources, the hottest classrooms were prioritized to receive heat abatement measures first; Kauai’s schools included. Additionally, creative measures were implemented by Gov. Ige, who utilized GEMS funds and energy efficient systems to achieve cooler classrooms. No other candidate for Governor has made headway in this area, nor have they made cooling classrooms a priority. Do all of our classrooms have AC? No. But if this issue is important to you, you should be appreciative of Governor’s efforts as he continues to dedicate resources to this area. The current number of classrooms with AC is +1200. Also since you mentioned it, not all of Governor’s staff work in air conditioned offices however they continue to show up to work on a daily basis. Mahalo and aloha!

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