Air Conditioning in Schools: Is it Essential for Learning?

HVAC Logo IconBy Jonathan PostonSeptember 26, 2023

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An Ethnic teacher is leading a class of elementary school children. There are various posters on the wall, and drawings on the chalkboard. Students are putting up their hands to answer a question.

Schools are in session, starting in August and September, or sooner. Some districtsdo not have air conditioning in schools. This leaves students to sweat through the day.

Districts across the U.S. faced these problems at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year. Schools from Detroit to Los Angeles had heat-related closures. Kindergarteners through college students were affected.

While uncomfortable, is the heat hampering the learning process? Research has shown that indoor air quality can impact learning. Could cooling also affect a child’s education? Should air conditioning in schools be mandatory?

air conditioning in schools


Why is there no air conditioning in schools?

A lack of cooling in the classroom stems from various problems. Many schools have air conditioners, yet they don’t work. Some school districts cite unfinished maintenance requests. Others say they don’t have the money to fix or replace their cooling systems.

Some schools do not have existing air conditioners. Cooling systems were never installed in some schools. In those that wish to obtain air conditioning, the funds aren’t available.

The effects of no air conditioning in schools

When students and teachers are sweating, are they able to concentrate on learning? Probably not.

When exposed to very cold temperatures, the brain isn’t thinking about learning. Instead, it’s reminding the body that it’s cold. It’s interrupting learning, urging the body to take action to warm up. Cooling down the body to avoid heat exhaustion consumes energy. This consumes bodily resources which could be used for learning. These physical demands can affect brainfunction, which impacts decision-making in learning.

Studies have shown that children’s academic performance declines in higher temperatures. In hotter classrooms, headaches and heat exhaustion symptoms develop. These physical symptoms can hinder academic performance. Warm classrooms also decrease interest and alertness, distracting students. Even research performed by high school students shows that test scores fall in warmer environments!

High humidity often accompanies high temperatures. Increased humidity can make students feel sleepy. Concentration tests scores are also lower in humid, hot environments.

Should air conditioning in schools be mandatory?

Despite the research, very few school districts have mandated temperature maximums, nor is air conditioning required in schools. Educators and parent organizations country-wide have brought attention to the need for cooling in classrooms.

Without cooling, schools are forced to adapt when temperatures rise.Baltimore County schools in Maryland has a policy that non-air conditioned schools will close if the day’s heat index is expected to reach 90 degrees or above by 11 a.m. The rule was passed out of concern for unhealthy classrooms. The school system has battled state government for funding to install air conditioners. Politics seem to stand in the way of giving children comfortable and safe learning environments.

A lack of air conditioning in schools has caused school officials to create contingency plans for hot weather. One L.A. school reduces students to their seven air conditioned rooms, doubling the kids in each class. Large class size is often associated with a decline in student performance.

These examples are just a few of the measures taken by schools to protect students from hot weather. Installing air conditioners in schools where climate warrants their need would solve the problem. Students wouldn’t miss valuable school time. When in class, their surroundings would be comfortable and promote learning.

Looking at research, it appears that the ideal temperature for classrooms is between 72 to 77 degrees. Schools in warmer climates will need cooling systems to manage classroom temperatures. To improve students’ learning abilities, it’s safe to say air conditioning in schools is needed.

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