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    Every NYC classroom will have air conditioning during heatwave, education official says

    By Jessica Gould,

    Previous heatwaves have sparked complaints from parents and students about sweltering classrooms without working air conditioners.

    All classrooms in New York City public schools should have air conditioning, a top education official said Monday, detailing preparations for the coming heatwave.

    Deputy Schools Chancellor Dan Weisberg said school custodians will come to work early this week to get the air conditioners cranking well before students arrive. Principals also have the option to curtail recess and limit strenuous activities as necessary.

    Public schools are closed Monday for Eid and Wednesday for Juneteenth, but in session Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, when temperatures are expected to climb upwards of 90 degrees .

    “We are really focused on making sure that our kids are safe during this heat wave…certainly in their classrooms they will be cool,” Weisberg said at a press conference. “Our crews are going to be out there very early in the mornings to cool our schools.”

    Education department rules do not require non-instructional spaces like gyms, cafeterias, and libraries to be air conditioned, though “an increasing number” do have AC, Weisberg said.

    The city has spent more than $400 million to install air conditioners in recent years, though parents and students have complained during previous heatwaves about the units breaking down, leading to sweltering classrooms.

    Last September, parents reported picking up kids early because they were sweating in unairconditioned classrooms , while principals said they had to combine some classes to take advantage of cooler spaces. Education department officials said workers were dispatched quickly to make repairs.

    Meanwhile, new legislation in Albany raised the possibility that schools could close altogether when indoor temperatures spike. A new bill passed by both the Assembly and state Senate would prohibit students from being in school spaces hotter than 88 degrees.

    Gov. Kathy Hochul must sign the legislation before it becomes law. If signed, it would go into effect in September 2025.

    That timetable could allow the city education department to work out a number of logistical questions about implementation of the bill.

    The New York State Council of Superintendents opposes the legislation. Gregory Berck, an assistant director at the council of superintendents, questioned the logic of closing schools for heat days.

    “What’s really being solved?” he asked. “We’re sending kids home [but] how many of those homes have air conditioning?”

    Under the legislation, temperatures reaching 82 degrees would trigger cooling measures, including turning off the lights, pulling down shades, turning on fans, opening windows and water breaks.

    If temperatures top 88 degrees, the bill says educational spaces “cannot be occupied.” What exactly should happen in those cases is not spelled out. The legislation does not require school closures, but it’s an option.

    The legislation, if it becomes law, could create added pressure on the school calendar. Gothamist has previously reported on how the number of official school holidays has resulted in snow days becoming virtual learning days . The legislation could prompt a similar scenario on hot days.

    Assemblymember Chris Eachus, who represents Orange and Rockland counties, was one of the bill’s sponsors.

    “[New York State] already has maximum temperature limits for animal shelters, so it was inconceivable to me that we did not already have it in place for our kids,” said Eachus, who is a former teacher.

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