The Most Dangerous Job in SD23


Olivia Harms, Writer

What is the toughest job in the school district? If you think it’s working with kids, then prepare yourself for a shock. While walking to class, a few students may have observed a few strange individuals in the hallways.  These people work for the HVAC department in SD23.

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning,. These are components of a school that are often forgotten or taken for granted. It often slips one’s mind that a school is more than just a brick building. In fact, there is a whole other world behind those stone walls. Those of us that got the privilege of glimpsing into one of these forbidden mechanical rooms, can find themselves overwhelmed by the machines within them. Although, those who work with the machines have gone through quite the process to maintain them. It took Steven Harms, who’s worked with the district for five years, a four year apprenticeship to be able to work in the field he does today. 

In years before working for the school district, he learned many things about safety, or lack thereof.  Although SD23 may have a more comforting safety guideline, it’s “up to [him] to adhere to them.” Within every school, if lucky enough, there is ventilation, heating and cooling, to put it simply. As nice as that is, it comes with the responsibility of making sure these devices don’t explode into flames.

There have been a plethora of stories shared about times where sheet metal had unsuccessfully decapitated a finger, or successfully sliced open his scalp. Every day, workers dodge what seems like a minefield of awaiting dangers, from electrical fires to refrigerant leaks. If that weren’t tough enough, they also have to endure the long labors of renewing every school’s air filters. This is a tedious task that can take over nine weeks and must be done three times a year. This totals to just about seven months! 

Sadly, the obstacles don’t stop there. The HVAC team can experience multiple setbacks connected to vandalism. On multiple occasions, Mr.Harms has found rooftop units obliterated from students climbing up and smashing them for fun. This is SD23’s most expensive sport, costing “anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 dollars, depending on the size of the unit.” Other slightly less aggravating issues that arise include pins being stuck into work vans. Unfortunately for the perpetrators, the typical cork board pin isn’t usually long enough to puncture the inner tire itself, making their efforts a waste of time. These scenarios are derived from the unaware and unappreciative attendees of our schools. 

After all the education and hard work the HVAC team goes through, most people I talk to still have no idea what they actually do. So next time you come bursting into school from the cold, or out of the heat into some fresh air conditioning, remember our diligent school district members that keep it that way.