For teachers, getting a classroom of simultaneously hyperactive and drowsy children to remain alert and interested is a monumental task on an average day. Keeping them attentive while sweating indoors without air-conditioning is a feat that’s virtually impossible for the best teachers and even the most prodigal students. That’s why schools across the midwest are having to shut down classrooms because of the new snow day — the sun day.
For schools in the southeast and southwest, this isn’t an issue. Used to temperatures soaring 100 degrees and above, central air conditioning is taken for granted. Having young children pass out from dehydration is a liability schools that don’t have air conditioning can’t afford.
School closures in the Midwest have been spreading like a tidal wave across Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Fargo and North Dakota. These cities are used to having cool summers with the real weather problems surfacing during the winter in the shape of blizzards. Now that they’re starting to experience longer summers and hotter record-high days, the lack of air-conditioning is starting to become an emergency situation.
The lingering recession has been a hindrance as well. Many of these cities have been hit hard with budget cuts especially to public services like education. Retrofitting schools with AC vents isn’t a feasible option for school boards which are faced with a large number of financial burdens like paying teachers’ salaries and providing free school lunches for a growing population of children with unemployed parents.
In order to accommodate air conditioning in schools, simply fitting window AC units to the wall is not a solution. These are more expensive to maintain and can compromise air quality. Window AC units have also been held responsible for spreading pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria in immune-compromised populations. In an environment of young children who are already prone to waves of flus, colds and other infections, this could prove be an even bigger disaster than lack of air conditioning. The only solution for now is central air cooling and heating.
In the past few decades, there has been great stress on equipping classrooms with technology. As a result, most students have access to computers, which have replaced encyclopedias, which are difficult to use or update.
Unfortunately, staying updated with advancing technology and information has been eclipsed by the need to maintain the learning environment with tech which was introduced to the mainstream in the 1960’s – the office air conditioner. Without doing so, classrooms will continue to be disrupted and children will continue to miss valuable learning time.