Council tackles lack of HVAC in schools

Boston City Council discussed plans to address safety conditions in Boston public school buildings and classrooms during extreme temperatures during a virtual meeting on September 30.

General Counsel and Boston City Council Education Committee Chair Annissa Essaibi George led the discussion between representatives from Boston Public Schools (BPS), the Boston Education Justice Alliance, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and advisers Ricardo Arroyo. , Michael Flaherty, Julia Mejia and Michelle Wu.

Arroyo responded to concerns from students, teachers and BPS staff about extreme temperatures in classrooms and school buildings and their effects on health and safety conditions in schools. Essaibi George read a statement from Councilor Ed Flynn, who was unable to attend the meeting.

“I believe we need to ensure that our students learn in an environment that protects them from extreme heat and cold, mainly in buildings that are hot.-controlled with proper ventilation and insulation, ”Flynn wrote in her statement. “I urge the BPS to seek funding sources to upgrade our school buildings with HVAC systems so that our students, teachers and staff can learn and work in a healthy and safe environment. “

BPS Executive Director of Facilities Brian Forde presented BPS’s plans to provide air conditioning in each school. BPS was awarded a contract to purchase 6,400 air conditioners from George Washington Toma TV and Appliance (GWTOMA) with support from the City of Boston Supply Office. The BPS Installations Department is finalizing the contract with Lynnwell Associates Electrical Contractors for the installation of air conditioners, addressing the electrical infrastructure of BPS buildings and preparing the windows to contain the air conditioners.

BPS anticipates that the installation will begin in October and continue through the spring. This plan may change due to changes in the supply chain, COVID-19 and workforce issues.

Forde also presented BPS’s plans to assess the use of blinds in buildings and compare the costs of materials and labor to install and repair blinds to retrofit heating, ventilation and ventilation systems. air conditioning (HVAC) of buildings. According to Forde, BPS provides access to safe drinking water in all schools, and outdoor water sources are not available in all schools.

Many BPS buildings were built before WWII. BPS plans to equip new school buildings with “modern full HVAC systems”, which will “adjust heating and air conditioning at the push of a button” and be operated and monitored both at school and remotely. In the summer of 2021, the Extended School Year (ESY) operated in 13 buildings of the BPS. TechBoston Academy was the only school without air conditioning.

BPS Deputy Superintendent of Operations Samuel DePina responded to Flaherty and Mejia’s concerns about current classrooms and buildings that are currently experiencing high temperatures and air quality. According to DePina, these schools should contact their guardians, who should contact their school principal, who should then contact the Energy Division of Building Services to adjust temperature controls in school buildings.

In May 2021, BPS released the results of indoor air quality (IAQ) and air exchange tests (Air Changes Per Hour, ACH) and concluded that most schools “had no need for additional repairs or updates “apart from 13 schools that had needed repairs:

• Boston Academy of the Arts
• Charlestown High School
• Community Academy of Sciences and Health
• Dearborn STEM 6-12 Academy
• Ellison, Dr. Catherine / Parks, Rosa Early Education School
• Haley, Dennis C.
• Haynes, Rev. Dr Michael E. Early Education Center
• Lee, Joseph K-8 school
• Mission Hill K-8 School
• Muniz, Margarita Academy
• Murphy, Richard J. K-8 school
• O’Bryant, John D. School of Math & Science
Ohrenberger, William H. SchooI

Arroyo, Mejia and BPS Chief Operating Officer Indira Alvarez have acknowledged that BPS classrooms could reach extreme temperatures before COVID-19 affects schools. Alvarez pointed out that the main differences between tackling the problem in the past and the present are the funds available to upgrade or repair the infrastructure of the BPS buildings.

Boston Education Justice Alliance Executive Director Ruby Reyes addressed inequalities in repairing facilities and resources in BPS buildings. Reyes also said that “no fairness analysis has been done” to assess decisions about which ESY schools are taking place and which schools are getting new HVAC systems.

“These unfair decisions end up hurting our most needy learners the most, including Black, Latino, English and disabled learners,” Reyes said. “Summer programming in BPS buildings is often used by summer school students or students with disabilities in ESY, or the extended school year, and various summer programs. “

The young organizers of MassCOSH have also “been working on this issue for many years around a heat campaign … well before the summer 90 degree-day series,” according to Reyes.

Maddie Taylor, a grade 11 student at Boston Latin School who also worked with MassCOSH in the Teens Lead at Work program, described her experience taking the MCAS in June 2021 in a hot and humid dining room, saying she felt the need to rush through the test to get out of the dining room faster. Taylor also recalled that she had experienced uncomfortably hot and cold temperatures before COVID-19, and she wore winter coats to class because the building did not have adequate heat.

MassCOSH Youth Programs Director Joe Tache cited Taylor’s story as an example of why BPS buildings need more than just air conditioners in classrooms.

“There are other spaces in schools where students and teachers are on a daily basis and sometimes have to take these high-stakes tests,” Tache said. “I think it’s really important to update the HVAC systems in every building to ensure that there is high quality ventilation and temperature control throughout the school. “

MassCOSH Executive Director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan testified to encourage attendees to consider OSHA’s “new special law enforcement initiatives regarding heat hazards” for indoor workers and outside. Sugerman-Brozan also encouraged them to take initiatives with laws to protect teachers and staff working in school buildings from heat-related hazards.

Molly Swanton is Associate Editor at Scope, a project of the Northeastern University School of Journalism

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