£40m school not cool enough for students, says head

STUDENTS could be sent home from the new £40 million Les Quennevais School following problems with the building’s cooling system that can be traced back to its opening last year.

Les Quennevais School Picture: ROB CURRIE.
Les Quennevais School Picture: ROB CURRIE.

Head teacher Sarah Hague has written to parents to warn that if temperatures again reach the exceptional levels experienced last week – leading to working conditions she described as falling ‘well below what is acceptable’ – pupils may be sent home.

She acknowledged that they had been monitoring some parts of the school since it opened last September and said that they had ‘constantly raised [the issue] as a concern’.

‘If during the day we face extreme temperatures such as we did last Tuesday [7 September], I may regrettably have to take the decision to close the school early and send students home, if I feel conditions due to high internal temperatures are unacceptable or unsafe,’ Ms Hague wrote.

On what was the hottest day of the year, the school said that it ‘formally raised the problem as an urgent matter with Jersey Property Holdings and the Education Department to ensure the temperature cooling issues are improved and the air handling system installed in the building is looked into as a matter of urgency.’

A Government of Jersey spokesperson said that the new building had been designed to balance the needs to provide ventilation, including through windows, with the need to minimise noise from the nearby road and Airport.

‘The building meets the relevant criteria for ventilation in school buildings. However, the exceptionally hot weather has led to some complaints about the temperature of the school. On investigation, some of the systems in place to keep the school at a comfortable temperature have required adjustment. New measures have been introduced, including more monitoring of temperatures in the affected rooms, allowing in more cool air overnight, and reactivating the systems that keep the school cool in warmer weather. Further work is under way to optimise the cooling systems ahead of next summer,’ the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson was not able to comment on the fact that the problems had been experienced over a lengthy period since the school first opened last year, something which Ms Hague described in her letter as ‘frustrating and disappointing ... particularly in a new building’.

The head teacher wrote to parents on 10 September – at the end of the first week of the new school year – to acknowledge that particular problems were experienced on Tuesday last week.

A temperature of 30.09C was recorded that day at Jersey Airport, close to the new school, making it the hottest day of the year, according to the Met Office.

‘The heightened external temperatures which are above average for this time of year have added to the difficulties we have experienced with our ventilation in school. As a school we have been monitoring temperatures in several classrooms since we officially took over occupancy of the school last September,’ Ms Hague told parents in her letter.

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