Are hot classrooms in New Mexico violating state code?

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There’s an administrative code for New Mexico public schools that says classrooms are supposed to operate at certain temperatures throughout the year.

The code is issued by the Public School Capital Outlay Council. When you look in the Occupiable Space section, under Temperature, it says every classroom should have a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system capable of maintaining a temperature between 68 and 75 degrees.

Just earlier this week, a Manzano High School teacher shared pictures with KOB 4 showing that temperatures were reaching over 80 degrees in his classroom.

The admin code is not written into legislation or as a state statute, but it is important to know what weight it carries.

“There are statutes that are passed by Congress at the federal level, by state legislatures, and there are administrative codes which are designed by administrative agencies to give specialized, you know, requirements and guidelines to government actors that are carrying out their duties pursuant to that particular area,” said Maryam Ahranjani, a law professor at UNM.

So how is the code enforced?

If the code is not followed, the New Mexico Public Education Department can get involved. The PED told KOB 4 in a statement that whether it’s too hot or too cold, they work with affected schools to try and solve any mechanical or logistical problems.

Ahranjani shared what could happen if parents or teachers take the complaint up through administration.

“They would start with an administrative claim and work through,” Ahranjani said. “They’d have to exhaust their administrative remedies through the process, you know, provided and outlined, and then if they, you know, they were unhappy with the outcome and wanted to move it over to a state court. In theory, they could.”

KOB 4 reached out to Albuquerque Public Schools about the code after receiving several complaints from parents. An APS rep said they are in compliance with the code.

They stated the code says your air conditioning systems need to be “capable” of the performance mentioned in the code and that their HVAC systems are “capable” – they did not elaborate more.

APS is planning on using nearly $30 million of federal funding to upgrade their HVAC systems throughout the year.