Aircon in schools a cold war
AIR-conditioning in schools is shaping up to be a key election battleground, with the state government expected to out-pledge Labor on cooling down classrooms.
It is understood “significant funding” has been set aside in the State Budget to eclipse a $300 million pledge by Labor to install or replace airconditioners in classrooms.
While the state government declares “around two-thirds of schools” have airconditioning, not all classrooms have an air-cooling unit.
In some cases, the airconditioning units are old, broken or no longer work effectively. Many have been installed by the schools themselves using P & C funds.
Some schools have also struggled to power airconditioning units with outdated electrical infrastructure.
Under the existing Department of Education’s Air Cooling Policy, “habitable spaces” in NSW public schools located in areas that have a mean maximum January temperature of 33 degrees or higher are “given priority for airconditioning”.
Public schools that do not meet the threshold “may install airconditioning” under the policy.
The threshold is not applied to demountables, which are all fitted with airconditioning.
Labor claims the policy is unfair on schools that experience summer temperatures of 40 degrees but miss out on airconditioning because the average temperature fails to meet the threshold. As part of Labor’s $300 million commitment to solar-powered airconditioning, it will abolish the threshold in place of a broader one that will also factor in humidity.
Opposition education spokesman Jihad Dib said Bureau of Meteorology data will be used, but schools will also be able to submit their own readings.
However, the first step will involve a statewide audit to determine the number of airconditioning units in each school. “There are schools that don’t meet the department threshold but experience temperatures of up to 42 or 43 degrees,” Mr Dib said.
“A teacher told me recently how she took her class outside into 43 degree heat last summer because it was cooler than inside the classroom.
“Our policy will ensure the hottest schools in the state will be airconditioned.”