Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

 Handling the Heat 

Posted 10/03/2022 by Campbell Mahoney

People in Europe found creative ways to cool off as recent heat waves turned conditions deadly. photo by Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Not only is the Earth feeling the effects of climate change, but Thomas Jefferson High School is as well.  

For more than thirty years, the science has been clear. Study after study show that global warming is actively creating a hostile environment for life to thrive; James Temple, with the MIT Technology Review, stated that climate change is generating a “…hotter baseline for summer temperatures, which dramatically increases the odds of more frequent, more extreme, and longer-lasting heat waves.” The effects don’t go unnoticed at Thomas Jefferson High School, where the lack of air conditioning yields uncomfortable environments for the Spartan community.

Across Europe, thousands of people have died simply from heat exhaustion. Heat waves are smashing through temperature records like never before. Climate change – an issue that once seemed to be so far in the future – is now rearing its ugly head and forcing people to confront it; people like TJ’s own Haven Coleman, who is a junior this year. Coleman has been fighting climate change for years; she’s even worked with Greta Thunberg, a 19 year-old climate activist from Sweden. Recently, she raised $25,000 so that she could distribute air purifiers to low income POC neighborhoods around Denver. She’s spoken in the Halls of Congress as well as inside Nancy Pelosi’s office. In 2019, she co-founded the US Youth Climate Strike, bringing the Student Strike movement to the United States. The current climate situation, according to Coleman, is “absolutely terrifying.” It is a known fact that humans have less than eight years to stop the worst effects of climate change. According to Coleman, those worst effects would be “everything we’re seeing now except multiplied tenfold. There would be more natural disasters, more intense heat waves, and so much more.” Coleman’s fear, however, doesn’t come from the impending doom of climate change – it comes from the fact that many politicians seem not to care about the climate situation. “It’s terrifying,” said Coleman, “because the current situation isn’t moving how we need it to. Politicians still aren’t taking the drastic measures needed towards stopping climate change.” In the past 20 years, Congress has only instilled 13 new programs to reduce emissions. At this point in the climate situation, that amount of action is not enough at all, and Coleman, as well as many others, are deeply concerned about the way the planet will fare in the near future. 

TJ, however, has been taking action to protect its students from the heat waves caused by climate change. This year, the school has had two heat days – Wednesday, September 7, and Thursday, September 8. Heat days, according to Principal Mike Christoff, are declared when the “average temperature in the building surpasses 85 degrees. The facility manager takes temperatures throughout the day, going into different classrooms and averaging out three temperatures – those next to the window, in the middle of the classrooms, and by the doors.” In order to combat these heat days for next year, Thomas Jefferson High School is supposedly going to get air conditioning. “The hope is that AC is going to be installed before the start of the 2023-24 school year,” said Christoff, and many students and staff are hoping for that as well. Air conditioning will be essential as climate change worsens with each passing year – it may be the only way for TJ’s students and staff to handle the heat.