2017-05-03 / Features

Simotas: Air Conditioners In Public Schools—Better Late Than Never


The October 27, 2016 news conference when Assembly Member Aravella Simotas announced funding for the purchase and installation of air conditioners for P.S. 85. The October 27, 2016 news conference when Assembly Member Aravella Simotas announced funding for the purchase and installation of air conditioners for P.S. 85. Assembly Member Aravella Simotas replied to the question, “What was your response to the Mayor’s recent announcement that air conditioning will be installed in every classroom by 2022?”:

“My first reaction was kudos to the Mayor. But seconds later my reaction felt more like, “better late than never.” News reports say nearly 11,000 classrooms currently have no AC, with 4,002 of them in Queens. Air conditioning was invented in 1902, hit the market in 1929, and low-cost window units became available in 1947. So here we are, 70 years later, “ensuring all students can learn in a safe and comfortable environment,” according to the Mayor.

“Children struggle and fail to learn in classrooms where the heat can top 100 degrees. In Astoria, it took parents and teachers decades to get air conditioning for P.S. 85, which sits just a few feet from the elevated subway line. Teachers at P.S. 85 had to choose between stifling heat if they kept windows closed or interrupted lessons from the noise of passing trains when they opened the windows in order to breathe. Last year I was finally able to get grant money from the New York State Assembly to pay for the purchase and installation of air conditioners for this school.

“In some ways it’s mind boggling that we would expect children to learn in environments that would make most adults, other than dedicated teachers, look for new jobs. But our children are stuck for the most part, and it’s long past the time when we should expect them to cope with uncomfortable and even dangerous environmental conditions while expecting good behavior and good grades. Think about how irritable you feel on a hot, muggy day sitting in an un-air conditioned subway car. Now imagine trying to concentrate on a test. Hard to do.

“The Mayor’s plan calls for air conditioner installations to prioritize schools that hold summer classes. That sounds like a good plan, but let’s refine it further. I would urge the Mayor to prioritize schools where children are already coping with stressors that impact learning, such as over-crowded and dilapidated school buildings, homelessness, hunger and poverty. Let’s at least give these children a boost, with a cool comfortable classroom that is conducive to learning and shows them that they are valued.”

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