Originally Posted on August 21, 2014 

Today, Council Member Margaret Chin introduced a resolution calling on the State Legislature to amend the State Education Law to require the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to equip all schools with enough heating and air conditioning units to keep indoor temperatures within safe and acceptable levels.

The resolution (Res No. 374) specifically calls for DOE school temperatures to be maintained within a range of 68 to 75 degrees during the winter, and within a range of 73 to 79 degrees during the summer, when summer school is in session for thousands of public school students.

Although it seems commonsense, there is currently no State requirement for DOE to install enough heating and air conditioning units in schools to keep temperatures within that range. The result is that too many DOE schools do not have nearly enough heating or air conditioning units to maintain that standard, leading to very unsafe and uncomfortable temperatures for many students, especially during summer school.

“Extreme and unsafe temperatures inside our New York City schools are simply unacceptable for students and their teachers,” said Council Member Chin. “It’s time to set a strong heating and cooling requirement that provides a consistently safe and positive learning experience during both the regular school session and summer school session. I believe that anyone who cares about the safety and success of our students will support this effort, and I look forward to seeing the State Legislature tackle this problem as swiftly as possible.”

A survey conducted by Council Member Chin’s office during the summer of 2013 found that students at numerous schools in her Lower Manhattan district faced unsafe and uncomfortable conditions that had a seriously negative impact on their ability to learn, take tests and take part in physical education classes. Details from that survey included:

  • MS 131 – Temperatures in the school’s gym often surpassed 100 degrees in the summer.
  • New Design High School – Only around half of the classrooms had working air conditioning units, with temperatures often surpassing 90 degrees.
  • Pace High School – Had to close testing rooms for students after temperatures during the test surpassed 90 degrees. In addition, a senior citizens’ program held in the school auditorium had to be cancelled due to safety risks, after temperatures reached 103 degrees and a poorly functioning air conditioning unit began blowing hot air instead of cold air.