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Billings West High students stage walkout to protest lack of air conditioning

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Posted at 6:35 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 10:32:57-04

BILLINGS — Less than two weeks into the new school year, dozens of students on Thursday walked out to protest rising temperatures inside the school.

Billings West High School is one of a handful of schools in the district without air conditioning, and many students seem to have had enough.

"It’s hard to focus when you’re worried about going outside or to the library or to a different room because it's colder. And then the teachers are constantly apologizing, and students are constantly complaining. It doesn’t make for good learning," said one female West High student.

MTN News is not identifying the students, who were interviewed on camera, because they're under the age of 18.

West High students organized the walkout during fifth period Thursday. Only the main office, counseling office, weight room, and part of an auxiliary room have AC in the building.

The district is installing air conditioning at many Billings elementary schools, thanks to a $122 million bond passed by voters in 2013. But none of that money can be used at either West or Senior High schools, both of whom are without adequate air conditioning, and district officials say updates would cost about $15 million at each. A bond levy would have to be approved by voters first.

Students feel that the current temps are taking a toll on the morale of the school and affecting learning.

"There has been a rumor of one student passing out in the middle of class of mainly dehydration …And some teachers have used their own money to buy a bunch of fans for their classrooms because the school refuses to turn on the AC. I think it would be good if we didn’t buy touch screen computers and tons and tons of sports equipment that we don’t actually need and we can put it towards stuff that the students and teachers would like, like AC," added another female West High Student.

Billings West Principal Kelly Hornby directed all questions to district Superintendent Greg Upham, who did not immediately return a message from MTN News Thursday.

In the meantime, as temps continue to rise, students just want something to be done and those gathered outside the school are demanding more fans and window AC units because they say the current methods aren’t cutting it.

"We need to take action, put on some sort of fundraiser or something to buy some ACs and stuff. We need something," said one of the West High walkouts.