PLYMOUTH — Dozens of Wyoming Valley West High School students opted not to enter the school Friday morning, choosing instead to stand and wave signs along U.S. Route 11 in protest of high heat in the building and a new dress code they consider too restrictive.
“People are soaked in their seats, people are passing out and they won’t even give us free water,” Kelsy Letteer said. The ninth-grade student said it has been so hot this week, “I didn’t even sign in this morning.”
Junior Alora Deluca said the protest was also about the new dress code, which they consider too restrictive and too costly.
“People pay, like, $50 for khaki’s and still have to buy street clothes after that,” Deluca said. Students chanted “No more dress code” as cars drove by on Plymouth’s main drag.
Deluca noted the office is the one place in the school with air conditioning, and Letteer said students who try to seek some refuge by visiting the office had gotten kicked out. They also said they were informed the protests would be marked as an absence.
Superintendent Irv DeRemer said the primary problem was the age of the air conditioning unit. “Since 1978 when we opened the building, it periodically breaks down,” DeRemer said. “Because of the age of the unit, we can’t buy spare parts. Parts must be rebuilt, and that takes more time.
DeRemer said the AC isn’t run during the summer, but is started up for testing in August. “There were some repairs that needed to be made and unfortunately can’t be made in a timely fashion.” He expects repairs to be completed sometime “toward the end of next week.”
The school attempted to compensate for the heat, he said. “Students were able to carry water containers into all their classrooms. We had fans available for a number of classrooms. We did have some concerns inn some classrooms that do not have windows, and in those cases the teachers were able at various times of the day to take students to another classroom or even outside in the concourse.”
Regarding the dress code, DeRemer said the staff and the school board regularly review the policy and tweak it, and that most times it is changed a few students object. He noted the vast majority of students choose to attend classes and did not participate in the protest.
DeRemer said those who skipped classes will be marked with an unexcused absence but likely receive no other disciplinary action.