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Our View: Is air conditioning feasible for DeKalb schools?

Published: Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

On Monday and Tuesday, students at five elementary schools in DeKalb-based District 428 were dismissed early because of excessive heat.

The five school buildings had no air conditioning or partial air conditioning. So district officials decided students would be dismissed early.

Meanwhile, students in the district’s other buildings continued to go to class.

That doesn’t seem exactly fair to the students and parents at Malta, Lincoln, Littlejohn, Jefferson and Founders elementary schools.

The students missed out on instruction time that their peers at other schools received, although they also might have had some difficulty concentrating in classrooms that heated up as the day wore on. Their parents also had to make arrangements for their after-school care, which could be inconvenient for families where there are no parents or caregivers home in the early afternoon.

Many school districts are like DeKalb in that they have some buildings that are not air-conditioned.

But unlike most school districts, District 428 is sitting on a $21 million construction grant that it can use as it chooses. Providing air conditioning in the schools that lack it in order to bring them up to par with the other school buildings seems only fair.

School officials have noted the discrepancy before, but so far have not taken action.

Many people can recall attending class in hot classrooms without air conditioning. But school also used to start after Labor Day and end earlier. As a recent story from The Associated Press pointed out, school breaks now last longer and increased emphasis on standardized testing has increased the need for teacher institute days.

Installing air conditioning – at least to the extent that students can attend class when it gets hot – at schools that lack it makes sense provided it can be done at a reasonable cost and the district plans to continue to use these buildings in the medium to long term.

The idea is worth at least exploring so the public can see what it would cost.

Ensuring that all District 428 students have a comparable level of comfort on hot days is an issue of fairness, and, if possible, should be addressed.

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