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Air Conditioning Coming to Every Classroom Starting This Summer, Mayor Says

By Amy Zimmer | April 25, 2017 2:53pm
 The city will dedicate $28.75 million over the five years to install A/C units in all classrooms.
The city will dedicate $28.75 million over the five years to install A/C units in all classrooms.
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Shutterstock/Eldad Carin

MANHATTAN — After City Council members, parents and schools turned up the heat about the lack of air conditioning in schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that the city will install air conditioning units in all classrooms starting this summer.

The city will dedicate $28.75 million over the next five years to purchase and install air conditioning units in all classrooms, announced de Blasio along with the council and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.

Roughly 11,500 classrooms — representing about 26 percent of all classrooms across the city — have no air conditioning, city officials said.

“I’ve spoken with countless parents at town halls across the city and this issue has come up repeatedly,” the mayor said in a statement. “We’re investing in classrooms to create a safe, comfortable atmosphere to build on the progress our schools have made over the last few years.”

As the weather each year gets warmer and warmer, the lack of A/C has posed a bigger problem for teachers and students, making it too hot to learn on many days, according to a recent report from City Councilman Brad Lander, who covers neighborhoods ranging from Cobble Hill to Park Slope and Sunset Park.  

Respondents to his survey, for instance, included a middle school teacher in The Bronx whose student who needed to be carried down five flights of stairs to the nurse’s office because of the heat.

Brooklyn students on Monday delivered a petition to the mayor calling for A/C units, which was started by Lander's office and garnered more than 1,200 signatures

The funding will provide air conditioning to more than 2,000 additional classrooms in the first year of the program, with installation starting this summer. The Department of Education will prioritize summer school sites and will target those that have the wiring already in place to accommodate the upgrades — since another issue is that many buildings lack the electrical loads needed for the units.

Beside funding the air conditioner units and labor for instillation, the School Construction Authority’s five-year Capital Plan includes approximately $50 million for electrical upgrades to support the installation of air conditioning units.  

"New York City's public school kids think this is the coolest thing Mayor de Blasio has ever done,” Lander said in a statement. “But it is also a totally serious one.”

He added, “Through the #TooHotToLearn campaign, we heard so many stories of classrooms so hot that kids and teachers could not concentrate, those with asthma or special needs were unable to attend, even of kids fainting.”

City data on air conditioning lacked information on whether school public areas like auditoriums, cafeterias, gyms, libraries and nurses’ offices had A/Cs. According to Lander’s survey, 95 percent of respondents said that those shared spaces lacked air conditioning.

Because schools had to pay for A/C units out of their own budgets — if they had the wiring to accommodate the units — they often had to make the impossible choice between spending on teachers and textbooks — or on air conditioning.  Schools with wealthy student bodies often relied on their PTAs fundraise for A/C units, while low-income schools were unable to have similar campaigns.