If you didn’t know, this year proudly marks Edgemont’s 66th anniversary. Many things have changed since our school’s founding, all the way back in the prehistoric days of 1955, when dinosaurs and Marilyn Monroe still walked the Earth. Hundreds of teachers and students have come and gone, entire new buildings were constructed, and the senior lounge was colonized by the teachers. However, amidst this ocean of change, one thing has remained stubbornly constant throughout: the complete and utter lack of air conditioning in any of the buildings.
Benjamin Franklin once said that the only certainty in this world is death and taxes. Clearly, he’s never visited Edgemont during the summer months. The only certainty for Edgemont students and staff during this time of year is hellish heat and silent suffering. I’m sure we can all relate. Consider the crushing regret you feel for coming to school in long-sleeves because it was chilly in the morning and the confusion of not knowing whether the fluids dripping down your face are sweat or tears or both. The disgust as you pull out a chair and spot someone’s sweaty buttprint embossed upon its surface like a gag-inducing fossil. As far as terrible school experiences go, this one’s pretty universal.
So now we hit upon the core of this article. Why? Why do we not have air conditioning? Doesn’t the school administration know our pain? Or do they simply enjoy watching us mere mortals writhe pitifully on the ground, whilst luxuriating in conditioned ivory towers? The answer, as it turns out, is shockingly… No.
As appealing as the image of the tyrannical elite willfully denying the dying masses air conditioning is, the real reason why our school lacks AC isn’t because the school admins are consummate sadists, no. The actual problem is much more mundane and much less solvable. The real reason why our school lacks AC simply comes down to a matter of economics.
It’s just too expensive.
Now, to most of you, this will sound like bologna (the proper spelling of the luncheon meat for which we salivate). After all, our school district and general surrounding population appears, to put it in layman's terms, loaded. Theoretically speaking, our school’s budget should resemble something like Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin.
You wouldn’t be wrong to think that. Our school is undeniably well-funded, even by the standards of Westchester. In fact, last year’s school budget clocked-in at a whopping 63 million dollars. Given all this, surely our school has enough disposable income to shell out for simple AC, especially when the lack of it is such an issue in the summer?
In theory, yes, our school is capable of installing AC in every single building. However, in reality, there are a number of limiting factors that stop this shiny, air conditioned dream dead in its tracks. For one, some buildings physically can’t support AC. As stated earlier, our school is old. Even the most modern building, the E, is pushing over two decades old at this point. The electrical systems for most of these buildings are either too weak or outdated to support any meaningful AC.
In addition, air conditioning systems are extremely costly to maintain and repair. As you all know, earlier this month, the ventilation in the E-building suffered “a catastrophic failure”, resulting in the entire building-wide fan system having to be replaced. According to Principal Hosier, this will run the school hundreds of thousands of dollars at least, not to mention the lengthy amount of time the actual repairs will take. Now imagine doing that for every building, and Edgemont’s Money Bin starts looking a lot less like a fathomless ocean.
Yet another reason is the simple fact that just because the school has money does not mean it has an unlimited amount of money. The budget has limited infrastructure projects on several occasions, as was the case 20 years ago when the E-building was originally being constructed. The E-building was originally supposed to come fully equipped with an air conditioning system, but due unexpected costs, the AC was among one of many bells and whistles that were cut from the final building plan.
It’s expensive to run a high-quality school system. The labor costs alone, the personnel, is like 75% of your total cost. So you want to attract the best teachers, right?
The final, and most significant reason as to why our school doesn’t have AC has to do with what the school chooses to prioritize in their budgeting. According to Edgemont’s Director of Facilities, John McCabe, “The main issue with the air-conditioning has been[…] It’s expensive to run a high-quality school system. The labor costs alone, the personnel, is like 75% of your total cost. So you want to attract the best teachers, right? It’s very competitive, we want to offer the best in education, and you know, there’s a lot of competition for tax dollars to support a school system. So with the best intentions, you go into a school year of planning, and then you find out there’s somethings that you can’t do, and things like air-conditioning are typically the things we cannot do.”
You’re kind of privileged in a sense that you’re getting the best education with the best services associated with it- but you know, there’s opportunity costs, we’ll say? You lose out on things like air-conditioning.
Mr. McCabe went on to further elaborate that, “It’s always been the #1 -and rightfully so- priority to provide the best education we can for the students. [...] You’re kind of privileged in a sense that you’re getting the best education with the best services associated with it- but you know, there’s opportunity costs, we’ll say? You lose out on things like air-conditioning. [...] Edgemont puts it all into the education, and I don’t think that’s a mistake by any means.”
Essentially, the school prioritizes funding our academic programs, including paying for qualified teachers, over additions to infrastructure like air conditioning. And while the current bone-melting weather may make it hard to appreciate this budgetary strategy, it is hard to argue with the results. Our school district has consistently ranked among the top 100 in all of America, with essentially a 100% graduation rate and 100% college attendance rate.
So what does all this mean for the future prospects of ever getting AC in Edgemont? Are we doomed to forever sit in boiling classrooms, sweating through our pants and the seat below?
We are happy to report that, thanks to the recently-approved Edgemont Bond initiative, the district intends to implement a brand spanking-new construction and renovation plan that aims to throw a total of 54 million dollars at overhauling the physical plants of all three public schools in our district. Edgemont and Greenville are getting new buildings, all of which will come fully equipped with AC. On top of that, the A-building is also getting furnished with a full AC system, making it one of the first places in the school to have building-wide AC. While we’re still a long way from the entire school enjoying such luxuries, this is a step in the right direction, not to mention a huge victory for our school’s older grade levels.
While the Bond has been approved, the actual construction and renovations won’t start until 2023 at the earliest, effectively putting the final nail on our hopes and dreams and burying it 6 feet under.In the end, the undeserving younger generations will benefit off the backs of our suffering without truly appreciating what they have.
Such is life.