Now that the city has expedited its plan to provide all schools with air conditioning, the UFT wants the details for its members.
“Our members are clamoring for news about what classrooms are slated to receive AC units and when to expect that work,” the union reported in testimony on the city’s capital plan submitted on Dec. 18 to the New York City Council committees on education and finance.
The union launched a campaign in September to get relief for schools ill-equipped for scorching weather after classroom temperatures rose to the mid-90s in the first week of school. At the union’s request, nearly 400 UFT members documented the conditions in their classrooms to demonstrate the scope of the problem and its impact on teaching and learning.
In April 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to install air conditioning in the roughly 11,500 classrooms without it by 2022. The mayor set aside $28.8 million to buy the units and another $50 million in the five-year capital plan to make electrical upgrades to support the installation of air-conditioning units. In November 2018, de Blasio announced the city’s upcoming capital plan would accelerate the rollout of air conditioning and the needed electrical upgrades so all classrooms would be air-conditioned by 2021.
The first and last weeks of the school year have always been likely to be hot, but climate change is making the issue more urgent by bringing higher temperatures more frequently and for longer periods of time.
“The oppressive heat and humidity unquestionably put students and staff at risk, particularly those with chronic health conditions,” the UFT said in its testimony.
The union has asked the city to provide schools with a public report outlining which classrooms are on the list to receive AC units and to clarify the timetable for that work. The UFT has also requested the city make public how any remaining funding from the current capital plan will be used to address the issue.
“The priority must be to get most of this work done as early in the new fiscal year as possible,” the testimony said. “One of our greatest responsibilities is the safety of our schools’ occupants, and we should make every effort to accelerate and expand this initiative.”