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In N.H., heat is harder when schools lack air conditioning

“We want the kids in school, and they did miss so much over the past few years, but we have to be concerned about the safety factor,” said Kathleen Murphy, superintendent of the Concord School District

Air conditioners installed in windows at a school are turned on during a hot September day.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

CONCORD, N.H. — Let’s face it: September seems late for a heat wave.

Michael Clair, a forecaster for the National Weather Service, said it’s not common for the agency to issue heat advisories at this time of year. On Tuesday, Concord broke the heat record for that day at 92 degrees. The previous record was 91 degrees and it had been set in 2018.

“The record high suggests it’s pushing the upper end of what we’re seeing for this time of year,” Clair said.

And the heat that enveloped parts of the state on Tuesday has not let up in the days since.


A heat advisory remains in effect Thursday, when the late-season heat will peak, according to the National Weather Service. With heat and humidity, the forecast said temperatures could feel as hot as 99 degrees in Concord. And it will be in the 90s throughout much of the state. Thanks to climate change, it’s more likely that we’ll have to get used to these conditions at this time of year moving forward.

Schools in the Northeast, however, weren’t built with these conditions in mind. In New Hampshire, there are plenty of old school buildings, and many are not equipped with air conditioning.

“The short answer is that the majority of our schools do not have AC,” said Andrew Toland, chief of staff for the Manchester School District.

There’s one exception, he said: The Manchester School of Technology.

And some schools have an upgraded HVAC system, he said. Those systems are able to dehumidify the buildings, which can make them more comfortable. Toland said dehumidification is more common because it’s less expensive than air conditioning but still has some impact when it’s hot out.

Hot classroom temperatures make it difficult for children to learn, and can be dangerous. The ideal temperature for learning is at or below 72 degrees, according to an April study conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency.


Superintendent of the Concord School District Kathleen Murphy said dehumidification systems can make the air in school buildings feel 10 to 12 degrees cooler. But only three of the districts’ newer buildings have these systems; four other buildings do not.

Murphy said sports events were canceled because of the heat. She had custodians open windows in the high school and middle school buildings overnight to cool them down. On Wednesday, temperatures in the high school climbed above 80 degrees, the Concord Monitor reported.

“We want the kids in school, and they did miss so much over the past few years, but we have to be concerned about the safety factor,” she said, noting that every building has rooms with air conditioning in case someone is feeling unwell due to the heat.

Moving forward, Murphy said districts need to think about installing air conditioning, especially in places like Concord that offer a variety of summer programming during the hottest months of the year.

“I do think that’s going to be a big issue,” she said.

This story first appeared in Globe NH | Morning Report, our free newsletter focused on the news you need to know about New Hampshire, including great coverage from the Boston Globe and links to interesting articles from other places. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Amanda Gokee can be reached at Follow her @amanda_gokee.