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Linganore HVAC system burns out as relentless heat continues

S.U.M.M.E.R: School cancellations, Unwavering heat, Musty environments, Miserable temperatures, Excessive frustration, Reprehensible learning environment.
The+heat+in+Linganore+High+School%E2%80%99s+building+is+getting+is+out+of+control+and+signifcantly+impacting+the+learning+environment+for+students+and+staff.
Mia Lucas
The heat in Linganore High School’s building is getting is out of control and signifcantly impacting the learning environment for students and staff.

On Thursday, September 7, the Linganore High School (LHS) administration made the executive decision to dismiss students early due to extreme heat in the building. 

In the early morning of September 7, the control board on the HVAC system burnt out, causing the air conditioning system to stop working. The administration received a notification that the system had gone down. 

When a new control board was installed in the HVAC unit, there was no memory in the computer of  previous operational settings for the building. This meant that every classroom was now a completely different temperature than normal. 

Linganore math teacher Jennifer Purgason reported that the air conditioning problems are a distraction for the learning environment in her classroom. She said the uncomfortable temperatures are a big interference for her teaching and for students’ learning.

“It’s already kind of hot downstairs anyway, [especially] in my dress clothes, so it’s just really uncomfortable,” said Purgason. “That’s just a huge distraction to me because pretty much every five seconds, all I do is say how hot I am…it’s just distracting, and it’s hard to focus.” 

Now, the Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) maintenance team has been keeping data of the temperatures the rooms automatically default to so that they can correct the heat as needed. When the system burnt out, the maintenance team borrowed temperature settings from another school in the county with a similar layout to expedite the repair process. 

As of September 15, maintenance had been working on the HVAC system for two weeks straight. 

With every classroom being a different temperature, Linganore’s HVAC system has never been properly regulated throughout the building. The new LHS building opened in 2010, and while it is not very old in terms of school buildings, most rooms in the building hold different temperatures. 

“To be honest, we’ve been in this building for what, 12 or 13 years? I don’t feel like it’s ever been like the way it should be,” Purgason said.  “I feel like all the rooms have different temperatures…my own kids [who attend Linganore], they’re like, ‘Oh, [I’ve] got to make sure I have a sweatshirt in this class.’ But then, [in] the other class, they’re sweating.” 

Dr. Michael Dillman, principal of LHS, thinks the constant use of the system is why it has failed recently, and he understands how uncomfortable the building has become for students and staff. 

“Our goal is to have an ideal learning environment for, you know, students to actually sit in class [and] teachers to teach,” said Dillman. “So, when it’s that hot, it’s really hard to focus, to try to do anything.” 

Dillman began making calls at 7 a.m. on September 7 after he realized how warm the building had become. He reported that usually the building is slightly warmer in the mornings, due to conserving energy during the night, but Dillman quickly recognized that something was wrong. Calling the buses back to Linganore was Dillman’s main priority to allow the students to go home. Due to FCPS bus routes, there is only a small window of time to make the decision to dismiss students or not; otherwise, the buses would be unable to get to the school. 

Thankfully, all students in LHS have an assigned bus to get them home during emergency situations, whether they are typically car riders or not. Everyone was ensured transportation home, especially car riders whose parents were working and were unable to get them from school. Dillman sent out a FindOutFirst email at 9 a.m. to update parents on the situation. He explained that due to extreme heat, buses will return to LHS between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. 

Linganore staff was unsure that the building would be able to reopen the next day, September 8. 

With the unexpected HVAC failure driving building temperatures to unreasonable levels, Dillman had to make difficult decisions to cancel events or relocate them to other schools. 

The LHS gymnasiums are already not air-conditioned, so with the rest of the building hotter than usual, conditions became unbearable in the gym. Continuing to operate extracurriculars and athletics in the gym would have been dangerous for everyone participating. Student safety was a deciding factor in making final decisions.

“There were things on the calendar for that night that we had to say, ‘Should we keep it?’, ‘Should we reschedule?’” Dillman said. 

Lead custodian Troy Thomas reported that the incident at Linganore was not a unique event. Other schools in Frederick County had to be closed due to their HVAC system breaking down as well. 

“They have a problem with the chillers at other schools,” Thomas said.  “This isn’t an isolated incident.”

They have a problem with the chillers at other schools. This isn’t an isolated incident.

— Troy Thomas

Glade Elementary School was one of the other Frederick County schools that experienced severe HVAC issues during this time. Due to a severe thunderstorm caused by the heat, their school was closed one day later on September 8.  

While the HVAC system has been causing problems, chillers going out is not the only problem. Frequent power outages have been happening during the school day at LHS. 

Besides previous problems with the HVAC system, on the evening of September 21, a burning electrical odor was detected in one of Linganore’s classrooms. Though no students were present, the school staff was safely evacuated. The fire department investigated the odor, and it was determined that the AC unit was the cause. It was reported that the appropriate repairs were performed and everyone was unharmed. 

Staff from LHS are not the only ones who have been affected by the recent AC issues. Sophomore Harmonie Ponce was concerned and found the problems a big inconvenience for everyone, including students trying to get work done and teachers trying to teach. Ponce feels that students should have been better informed about what was going on.

“It was so hot when the AC went out, I actually couldn’t focus,” Ponce said ”It was affecting everyone mentally; I could not bear trying to work in the heat.”  

Junior Cara Morgan feels the same way. Due to the heat, students in her first block were already planning to leave school early, even if the early dismissal was never issued. 

“I have a lot of people in my first block and it was overall really stuffy in the room,” Morgan said. People were already planning to leave because they were so hot, and no one could focus on anything.”

With the weather cooling down, the building has done the same. Linganore’s staff and maintenance continue to work on getting the building back to normal temperatures. It remains to be seen whether the HVAC issues are remedied when the outside temperatures begin to warm again in the spring.

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