Of all the victims of the oppressive heat wave that overtook New York City in early June, let’s not forget the city’s schoolchildren, many of whom faced the daunting challenge of concentrating on schoolwork while battling discomfort.
But rather than wilting in the summer heat, a couple of students at P.S. 84 (250 Berry Street) stood up and took action. At the height of the heat wave, they circulated a petition calling on the school to install air conditioning.
This past Monday, they presented the petition to Principal Stefanie Greco. Although they will be on summer break by the time this article hits newsstands, they hope to spur Greco to request air conditioning from the Department of Education so that it can be installed by September.
“The third and second floors are so hot that every school day the kids and teachers who don’t have the air conditioners have to suffer from the heat,” read the petition, written by fourth grader Gabriela Estades and circulated by Estades and classmate Kayla Vega.
“We drink a lot of water, and we don’t even have to go to the bathroom because the water comes out from our sweat!” it continued.
“It’s worse on the third floor, because we’re nearest t the sun. It’s not fair that the teachers’ lounge and the office and your office have air conditioners. PLEASE, PLEASE LET US HAVE AIR CONDITIONERS,” the petition concluded.
During just two school periods, Estades and Vega collected 138 signatures, a sizable portion of the school’s enrollment of 488.
The three-story school recently installed air conditioning on the first floor, where the school’s offices are housed.
But only half of the classrooms on the second floor have air conditioning, while none of the classrooms on the third floor – where the fourth and fifth graders, the school’s oldest students, are housed – have air conditioning.
According to parents and students, the June heat wave exacerbated the asthma of the many neighborhood children who suffer from the condition. It also caused heat rashes for several students.
“We were getting heat rashes and people’s asthma was getting worse – people couldn’t concentrate,” said Estades.
“E,” a mother whose son came down with heat rash but who chose to identify herself only by her first initial, said: “I can just imagine these kids, from eight in the morning in pure heated classrooms. Being so hot has an effect on behavior – kids are going to overreact to things and not be able to sit still.”
The problem, as one would expect, is money. The building that houses P.S. 84 is very old, and installing air conditioners would require a comprehensive re-wiring estimated to cost around $80,000 for the third floor alone, according to PTA President Erika Estades, Gabriela’s mother.
DOE spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said that installing air conditioning “is always up to the principal. The principal always has to request air conditioning, then we install them. But it comes out of the principal’s budget.”
Greco declined to comment for this article, citing DOE policy prohibiting principals from talking to the press without clearance first.
Feinberg said that 35 percent of all schools have air conditioning in every classroom, while 42 percent of all classrooms in the city have air conditioning.