Last year’s state budget included essential funding to improve HVAC systems and indoor air quality in schools, but much remains to be done to ensure schools are healthy places to learn and teach.
The 2022 legislative session also established a School Indoor Air Quality Working Group that has been meeting for the last six months and this week issued short-term recommendations while committing to continue its work through the year ahead.
Some of the recommendations include
- Requiring the state to manage, collect, aggregate, and report data from schools’ HVAC inspections and evaluations via an electronic reporting portal
- Continuing the existing HVAC funding program created last year to allow more schools around the state to upgrade their HVAC systems
- Adopting temperature standards requiring school buildings to maintain temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit
There is legislation concerning temperature standards currently before the legislature’s Environment Committee that would require schools to keep temperatures between 65 and 72 degrees during cold weather periods and between 70 and 78 degrees during hot weather periods.
CEA has long advocated for temperature and humidity standards in schools both because of the health implications of excessively hot and cold classrooms and because students’ academic performance suffers when temperatures reach extremes.
CEA Legislative Coordinator Lou Rosado Burch (pictured above), who is serving on the School Indoor Air Quality Working Group, told legislators on the Environment Committee that temperature guidelines “are critical to ensure safe indoor environments that are protective of students and teachers’ health. These guidelines will help us obtain a clearer picture of the need for school HVAC upgrades across the state, while providing a mechanism to ensure districts take corrective actions where necessary.”
He added, “Empirical research clearly shows that extreme classroom temperatures negatively affect student achievement.”
There are currently no laws or public health codes in Connecticut regarding excessive heat in school buildings, though the Connecticut Department of Agriculture limits the maximum air temperature in dog kennels to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rosado Burch told legislators that improving and maintaining HVAC systems, including providing adequate heating and air conditioning, can reduce the need for emergency school closures, especially during extreme heat waves. Energy efficiency measures can also save municipalities millions of dollars over time due to reduced energy and maintenance costs.
“Our classrooms should be incubators for innovation and independent thought, not for COVID-19, mold, and heat-related impacts to achievement,” Rosado Burch said.
Stay tuned for calls to action from CEA and information about upcoming public hearings as indoor air quality in schools and other issues affecting public education come before the legislature.