Editorial: Schools need reliable air-conditioning

A recent editorial by the Marietta Times:

Schools in several Ohio counties are closing or going back to remote learning at the start of the school year. While one might assume that is happening because of the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, there is another culprit: extreme heat.

Throughout the state school buildings are so old or in such disrepair that they do not have working air conditioning. Marietta residents have been all too familiar with such challenges. Now, Columbus City Schools has 20 buildings that either have no air conditioning at all or are in the process of getting systems installed. Students at those schools are learning remotely while the heat wave holds on. Many districts in Northeast Ohio are simply remaining closed until the temperature drops enough for students to be able to earn safely and comfortably.

In July, Steve Dyer, government relations director at the Ohio Education Association and a former Democratic state lawmaker from Akron, talked to the Associated Press about Ohio’s new Fair School Funding Plan.

“It’s much more of a ‘What do kids need, and let’s pay for it’ thing, rather than, ‘Here’s how much money we’re willing to spend, let’s divide it by the number of kids and see what we come up with,’” he said. “It’s a totally different way of looking at school funding.”

It is ridiculous to have to say it, but despite lawmakers and public officials being surprised by it every August, it has been abundantly clear for years our kids need schools with reliable air conditioning. In fact, given the need for HVAC systems that provide not only temperature control, but good ventilation and air circulation to help stem the spread of COVID-19 and other contagions, it should be doubly on the minds of those in charge of funding to make it happen.

Bureaucrats and politicians are masters of the ignore-it-and-hope-it-goes-away technique. In the case of air conditioning in schools, that usually works for them, as fall weather removes the problem and they can forget about it until it arises again next school year.

Perhaps, given the amount of federal money flooding into counties and school districts, this is the year officials solve this very real public health and education challenge once and for all.

— Marietta Times, Aug. 27