City Rolls Out Air Conditioning For NYC Classrooms Starting This Summer

City Rolls Out Air Conditioning For NYC Classrooms Starting This Summer
Seth Low middle school (IS 96) in Bensonhurst.

Today, the Mayor announced a 5-year plan and budget to install air conditioning in every New York City classroom, beginning this summer.

This comes after Brooklyn city council members Mark Treyger, Brad Lander, and others pushed for A/C in schools, along with pressure from petitions, parents, and school authorities.

The city plans to allocate $28.75 million over the next five years to buy and install air conditioning units in all classrooms, announced Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council, and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.

In addition, the capital plan from the School Construction Authority includes $50 million for electrical upgrades to keep up with the new A/C units — since many schools don’t already have the wiring to support them.

“By fixing the school’s wiring, it opens the door for more upgrades, including supplying power to a computer or science lab. This wiring helps increase the capacity of schools to do more with technology,” said City Council Member Mark Treyger.

The funding will provide air conditioning to more than 2,000 classrooms in the first year of the program, with installation starting this summer, said officials.

About 11,500 classrooms — which comes to about 26 percent of all classrooms across the city — currently have no air conditioning, according to officials. And 3,478 of those classrooms are in Brooklyn, according to NYC Department of Education data.

In addition, 95 percent of the responders to the City Council’s survey said their school’s lacked A/C in gyms, auditoriums, libraries, nurses offices, and cafeterias — but common spaces will not receive cooling in this plan.

(Source: City Council study, 2017)

“Students get sick from the heat in the gym,” said a Brooklyn phys ed teacher in the survey. “We have no windows that open and no fresh air.”

And for many students, this presents real roadblocks to learning.

“As a former educator, I have seen firsthand how poor ventilation and uncomfortable temperatures can negatively impact the learning process,” said City Council Member Mark Treyger, who has been working on this issue for a long time.

At Abraham Lincoln High School in Brighton Beach, in Treyger’s district, only 4 percent of classrooms have A/C, according to data compiled by the City Council.

Treyger notes that multiple studies have connected excessive heat and poor indoor air quality with lower student performance, especially when that heat and humidity trigger asthma. Asthma afflicts nearly 15 percent of NYC children, especially concentrated in low-income communities of color.

Since A/C units come out of a school’s budget, public schools are often forced to choose between funding textbooks or cooling systems.

Jill Reinier, Parent Coordinator at PS 230 presenting Air Conditioning for PS 322 project (Photo via Ditmas Park Corner)

“New York City’s public school kids think this is the coolest thing Mayor de Blasio has ever done! But it is also a totally serious one,” said Brad Lander, whose successful #TooHotToLearn petition garnered more than 1,200 signatures.

Lander notes that schools have received A/C units through Participatory Budgeting, but the solution was ad-hoc and didn’t address the needs of schools without the budget to spend on cooling systems.

“The more we have kids and educators focusing on learning and not getting distracted by serious public health issues, that’s a victory for all,” added Treyger.

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