St. Paul teacher pleads with school district to take action over sweltering classrooms

“I need to stand up for my students I need to stand up for my colleagues."

Paul and Jordana
May 30, 2018 - 8:28 pm

Courtesy of Mark J. Westpfahl ‏

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A teacher in St. Paul says his classroom is dangerously hot after our recent streak of 90 degree days.

Mark Westpfahl teaches at St. Paul's Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented Magnet School. He talked with WCCO Radio’s Paul Douglas and Jordana Green about the conditions of his classroom that has no heat, or air conditioning.

“It's a really difficult situation,” said Westpfahl. “I was on a school board in in Inver Grove Heights for four years and we luckily didn't have to deal with a situation like that.”

On Tuesday, Westpfahl sat in his car to get a break from the sweltering heat of his classroom. He then voiced his frustration on social media posting photos of a thermometer hitting 94 degrees inside his room. He said in his post, “If I get disciplined, so be it. Nothing is more important than our students' health and safety.”

He told Paul & Jordana that the school’s HVAC system has not been functioning all month and many students don’t have air conditioning in their homes. He says the building, located off Interstate 94 and Dale Street was retrofit from an old computer company called Control Data, so the windows do not open.

“There was no reason really to have windows that would open because when it was retrofit we had air conditioning,” said Westpfahl. “I would hope that our district would be a little bit more proactive rather than reactive in taking care of us.”

Westpfahl says his school is not the only one in the district facing the similar conditions. He said teachers are staying silent over fear of “retribution”. Over the last several days Westpfahl has gotten messages from as far as Alaska advocating for his students, and some teachers telling him “thank you” for speaking out.

He said he wished the school administration and district had been so vocal. 

"And if they are, why isn't that being communicated to us and the families so we can thank them and we can work with them? The communication I think is the biggest piece right now that's that's bothering me, because we're not receiving that information," he said. 

While he has class field trip coming up, he plans to keep posting as long as he has access to WiFi. 

“I need to stand up for my students I need to stand up for my colleagues,” he said.

St. Paul Public Schools has posted "heat guidlines" on their site, sayinbg "Although some schools do not have air conditioning, Saint Paul Public Schools takes extra precautions to make sure students stay safe and hydrated during hot weather."

To listen to the complete interview click here: