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America’s Embarrassment: Billions Are Needed to “Level Up” School Facilities

South Cameron High School in Grand Chenier, Louisiana on Thursday August 27, 2020. Bill Feig/AP Photo/POOL

Healthy Schools Network Comment

The 98,000 public schools in the US provide over 8 billion square feet of learning space valued at over $3 trillion. Yet very few classroom facilities are climate-ready, and half are estimated to still have dirty indoor air. Worse, old school electrical systems may not be able to handle the load from window A/Cs plus plug-in room air cleaners. Leveling up can mean repairing or upgrading deteriorated facilities systems: roofing, plumbing, electrical, air handling, lighting, doors, and learning spaces (no counseling in broom closets!). As the reports below show, high heat in schools is a threat to health and to learning. Hurricane season brings its own risks, with flood and wind damages. Congress needs to support leveling-up and provide more support to ensure all schools are climate-ready.

Recommendation. Beyond federal funds for school facilities, Healthy Schools Network urges the federal agencies to build a tracking system for k-12 facilities showing full or partial school closures due to extreme weather, and reports on the numbers and characteristics of students missing days or displaced due to damages to their schools and on the cost to reopen damaged schools safely and quickly (remediate flooding and address the legacy toxics released such as lead, asbestos, PCBs, toxic/hazardous products spilled onsite).



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