Too Hot To Learn!

Too Hot To Learn!

Students, Teachers & City Council Members Rally for Air-Conditioning in All NYC Public School Classrooms

New #TooHotToLearn report reveals 10,000 classrooms without air-conditioning, as temperatures rise. But the NYC School Construction Authority reports zero A/C installations in progress. New coalition demands a five-year plan for A/C in all schools.     

CITY HALL - NYC public school students, teachers, administrators, and City Council Members across all five boroughs gathered on the steps of City Hall to rally for NYC air-conditioning in all NYC public school classrooms. The rally took place the afternoon prior to the Council’s budget hearing with the NYC School Construction Authority (SCA) and Department of Education (DOE).

At the rally, City Council Members released the “Too Hot to Learn!” report which reveals over 10,985 classrooms (in over 1,178 schools) in need of A/C. Rising temperatures have made it unbearable in these classrooms on an increasing number of hot days in May, June, September, and October. Students and teachers report sweltering classrooms (some reached nearly 100 degrees), headaches, dehydration, and conditions that make teaching & learning nearly impossible. The data in the report comes from both SCA and also over 400 respondents across New York City who responded to the City Council’s survey in October 2016.

Unfortunately, the SCA/DOE have no plans to address the issue. The report reveals that zero A/C installation are currently in progress, and funding is allocated for electrical upgrades in just 6 schools.

“In over 10,000 NYC public classrooms, on too many days, it is simply too hot to learn in,“ said Council Member Brad Lander. “When the thermometer rises into the 80s and 90, students become lethargic, dehydrated, and unable to focus. Students with asthma can’t even safely attend. How can we expect teachers to teach, or students to learn? We must do better for our kids.”

City Council Members called upon DOE and SCA to develop a five-year plan to air condition every school as outlined in the attached report. This includes electrical upgrades, rolling out A/C installations to all classrooms and public areas (e.g. cafeterias, gyms, auditoriums) in public schools, city wide. The report calls for an allocation of $25 million for classroom A/C units, and an initial allocation of $100 million in capital funding for electrical upgrades.

"Across my district in the South Bronx, I hear from educators, parents and students about classrooms that hit 80, 90 and sometimes even 100 degrees in the warmer months of the year, making them unbearable," said Council Member Salamanca. "If we want to help our kids succeed with quality educations, we need to invest in our infrastructure first, and in 2017 that includes air conditioning. That's why I'm proud to stand with Council Member Lander and my colleagues today."

At the rally, students gave first-hand testimonies on how the lack of A/C in their classrooms affect their abilities to concentrate. 

“I believe my school -- and every school needs air conditioning during the spring and summer months because of the harsh circumstances students face in classrooms due to extreme heat. I have found that focusing is especially difficult when temperatures are in the 80s and 90s and all you can think about is the sweltering heat,” said Andrea Diaz, a Senior at Brooklyn Collaborative (K448). “Not only is the heat distracting and uncomfortable, but it could also be dangerous when mixed with low ventilation or dehydration.”

“The health and success of our children should always be our top priority,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Too many of our classrooms throughout the City do not have access to air conditioning during the extreme heat we experience, creating a nearly impossible environment to learn and forcing them to sit in dangerous conditions. I want to thank Council Members Salamanca and Lander for their leadership in ensuring our children are in classrooms that are safe and conducive to learning.”

"This is simple. Every second of learning matters. Our kids and our teachers deserve not just the best resources possible, but a City that maximizes instructional time with commonsense planning on issues like this." - New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

“I believe it is vital for my school, and all schools across the city, to have air conditioning. These days, classrooms can reach temperatures up to 100 degree, becoming so hot that it is difficult to concentrate or learn,” said Sam Levine, Student Body President of MS 51. “Students can become dehydrated, leaving them prone to headaches and illness. Air conditioning would solve these problems, and allow for a better learning environment for students.”

“We need A.C. put into our classrooms because students should be able to work in a heat-free zone” said Avi Maryles, a ninth grader from I.S. 72 who was suspended after staging a sit-in protest in his cafeteria. His father, Steven Maryles, who has battled the school district against his son’s unfair suspension said, “Our job as parents, educators, elected officials should be to ensure that our children and students are in environments that lead to success.”

Students, parents, and Council Members also called attention to the unfair way that A/C installations are currently financed. In wealthier schools, funding from PTA fundraising can be used to purchase A/C units. But schools with predominantly low-income students generally receive no funding for this purpose.

“It’s almost impossible to believe that 10,000 of our classrooms are without climate control. That’s roughly 200,000 students and staff that are literally suffering possible heat exhaustion for 6 hours a day in sweltering conditions.” said Camille Casaretti, District 15 Community Education Council Representative and former PS 32 PTA President. “Just to give you a sense of how large that number is, there are close to 200,000 children registered for school in Manhattan and Staten Island combined.”

"Teaching and learning can’t happen in a sweltering classroom. We support the call for a plan to get air-conditioning into every NYC public school classroom," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers

The report also discusses the need for A/C in common areas -- such as gyms and cafeterias. Often students are unable to participate in physical activities because gyms are running at high temperatures or they have very little reprieve with cafeterias that lack A/C.  

“Legislation has passed for A.C.’s to be in school kitchen cafeterias; however there is no bill requesting repairs for A.C. units,” said Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I. “We need to have legislation for A.C.’s to be fixed when they are malfunctioning so that Local 372 cafeteria employees can efficiently prepare and provide meals for 1.1 million NYC public school students.”

 "All students deserve a safe and healthy learning environment.  Our kids should be allowed to learn without having to worry about it being too hot for them to concentrate. If schools aren't able to cool their buildings, our students and teachers suffer  As our climate changes and temperatures rise higher, this issue is exacerbated further,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides. “We must ensure that schools have the resources they need for air conditioning and cooling.  I thank Council Member Lander for his leadership on this public health issue."

“New York City school children face severe learning challenges when classrooms are too hot. Educators and children too often contend with a chronic lack of air-conditioning and no path to relief.  We know New York is only getting hotter.” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “The #TooHotToLearn campaign has already helped raise awareness and will identify some of the worst sites. Now we must take responsibility for the care and safety of children who face unacceptable heat at school.”

View the report online, here: 
Download the report below: 
Too Hot To Learn - March 2017.pdf1.01 MB

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