Air conditioning system failure leads to early dismissal

What felt like a normal Monday at Cedar Shoals quickly turned to a hot situation after the Charles J. Worthy Academic Building’s conditioning system failed. 

In an effort to keep staff and students safe from COVID-19, teachers and students were sent home after first period and remained asynchronous for the remainder of the day. 

“We plan for certain situations so that way we have a plan of action to carry out when different things arise. I’m sure it’s been a concern, thinking that it was a COVID outbreak. We’ve tried to let people know that was not the issue,” Cedar Shoals Principal Antonio Derricotte said. “The thing that we have to consider is the safety of students as well as staff. When reports were coming in where there were hot spills going on throughout the building where a lot of people were very uncomfortable, we went around the buildings just trying to take a good look at what areas were being affected.”

With no working air conditioning in any of the classrooms, teachers continued their lessons. As they heard more about air conditioning problems throughout the building, safety concerns about no fresh air circulation and the possibility of COVID exposure being more likely, Cedar administrators followed COVID-19 building evacuation procedures. 

After determining that there was a problem with the air conditioning system, Mr. Derricotte communicated with district officials in determining the appropriate steps for a safe exit from the building. 

“We take an assessment of what’s going on in the building, and then I’ll reach out to my principal supervisor over at the district. We have individuals that work with district services, and we thought through that plan of action with transportation, just trying to make sure that we can get students home safely,” Derricotte said. “Once we started executing the plan we realized that buses could be staged to get students home in a quick manner so we went ahead and started the process of notifying parents, teachers and students about the situation.”  

Although e-mails were sent out notifying those in the CCSD system that in-person and synchronous school would be ending early after first period ended, teachers who were busy teaching simultaneously on Zoom and in-person were notified that students were going home through the school’s intercom system. 

“I was actually very surprised,” Mr. Garrett Walker, social studies department, said. “I just happened to see the e-mail while I was teaching and I stopped teaching for just a minute and I asked my kids ‘did you guys get an email from the school regarding the air conditioning situation?’” 

“Reading the e-mail in class, I didn’t completely understand why we decided to send kids home early and then it kind of hit me that it may be related to a COVID issue,“ Walker said. “After kind of realizing that it was a real, possible issue it made more sense.”

Along with the decision to release teachers and students from the school building, administrators and district officials decided that it would be best if students and teachers continued the day asynchronously. 

“One thing that we have to consider is for synchronous classes to be able to go on, the teachers have to be in place where they can give instruction. Even though students are being dismissed and may be at home, teachers may not be in a place where they can successfully carry out the classes for the day. It’s not just students but we have to make sure the staff is safe as well. We don’t want to put them in a dire situation where they are having to sit in the classroom and it’s still hot, so we also wanted to make sure that we can allow staff an opportunity to make it home successfully,“ Derricotte said.  

Senior Zach Kulik says he did not notice anything strange at first.

“I wasn’t aware of any problems.” Senior Zachary Kulik said. “Nobody told me anything but after a while of being in class, I started feeling a little hot. I wasn’t concerned at first, but the air conditioning is what filters the air to protect against COVID, so I realized it could have been an issue with that.”

CCSD plant services arrived at the school building and began working on the system shortly after students exited. Derricotte announced that classes will continue tomorrow synchronously through Zoom. 

“Tomorrow is synchronous learning from home for everyone. We allow the necessary time for plant services to inspect the building to make sure they can fix what they need to have fixed or if they’ll need extended time,” Derricotte said. 

“We’re going to try to do our best to make sure that everything is in place so people will know all the information they need to know so that they have an informed decision as to how tomorrow looks. At this time I’m not able to speak to exactly how Wednesday through Friday will look, but the plan for tomorrow, Tuesday, will be synchronous learning for everyone.”

Calvin Williams

Calvin Williams is a senior Sports Editor for WJAG-TV. He has attended the Southern Interscholastic Press Association. Williams is interested in microbiology and hopes to help new students in the program learn how to cover events. He enjoys writing and covering stories and working with others that are equally as passionate about journalism.