Sweltering temperatures even hotter for kids cooking, fixing cars at Diman
By Deborah Allard
Herald News Staff Reporter
Diman metal fab student Anneliese Baker puts down a bead on a piece of metal stock. She's wearing a leather jacket to protect herself from flying molten metal on a very hot day [Herald News Photo | Dave Souza]
Alyssa Franco works at a hot grill at Diman on a very hot day [Herald News Photo | Dave Souza]
Culinary student Selena Medeiros working at a single burner stove on a hot day at Diman [Herald News Photo | Dave Souza]
Culinary student Andrew Leger gets part of an order completed in a hot kitchen at Diman [Herald News Photo | Dave Souza]
FALL RIVER — The gymnasium was sweltering. Automotive technologies, metal fabrication and auto collision shops were burning hot. The kitchen — no surprise — was literally an oven.
Since school started last week at Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School, the sultry conditions in some areas of the school have been like a fever that won’t subside.
Diman Superintendent-Director Thomas Aubin said about 50 percent of the academic classrooms do not have air conditioning, in addition to some of the technical shop areas.
“That’s part of the struggle with an old building,” Aubin said.
A $1.5 million Massachusetts School Building Authority feasibility study is in the beginning stages to determine whether to build a new school or renovate the existing structure.
The Greater Fall River Vocational School District met Wednesday night to introduce members of the School Building Committee and establish a meeting schedule.
The process from beginning to end, however, could take years.
In the meantime, Aubin said Diman is looking for funding to add air conditioning to at least some areas of the school, like the gymnasium.
On the first day of school, traditionally, the seniors head out to the bleachers for a group photograph. The juniors gather in the auditorium. And, the freshmen and sophomores come together in the gym.
“It was unbelievably hot on the first day of school,” Aubin said.
Aubin said it’s not just a matter of being uncomfortable, it stifles learning.
“It’s been challenging,” Aubin said.
Kids in their technical classrooms, which include the kitchen in the culinary arts program and the shop where students were learning to weld, were both pretty hot on Thursday as the temperature and humidity soared once again.
In automotive technologies, the sunlight penetrated the south- and east-facing windows for hours, steadily raising the temperature. Aubin said at one time, they could have opened the garage door and at least caught a breeze, but with security concerns and regulations, that’s no longer an option.
Adding air conditioning to the gym alone could cost about $180,000.
Besides using the gym for physical education purposes, he said it could be used for academics when some classrooms are too hot.
Teachers have been keeping an eye on students and making sure they drink water and take breaks. Aubin said that because they know their students, “they know when a kid is not right” and needs a break from the heat.
Air conditioning is only one issue at Diman. Other major concerns that don’t dissipate with the arrival of cool autumn air are the needed updates in technologies and advanced equipment, and the lack of space — all reasons for the feasibility study.
Aubin said the school was built for 800 students but counts about 1,400 on its roster.
He said Diman received 800 applications this school year for just 375 slots, and that bothers him.
“It’s brutal to turn these kids down,” Aubin said. “They should be able to get a high-quality technical education.”