Out of the hot seat: Air conditioners for classrooms

Air conditioners for classrooms

Last year, groups of parents in Western Australia successfully lobbied their education department for a review of funding for classroom air conditioning. In 2011, parts of the state saw thousands of students and staff members swelter in the hottest summer in thirty-three years.
Robert Fry, president of the WA Council of State School Organisations, welcomed the review.

“You put everyone in a stifling hot, stuffy classroom, no one is going to respond well or be able to learn,” he said. “Why should children and teachers be denied comfort in their learning environment?”

In her 2011 article, education commentator Jane Caro argues that it is “outrageous” for students and teachers to spend hours every day struggling through temperatures of over thirty-five degrees.

It’s understandable that our public servants—the very people who create policies around funding for schools—deserve to work in cooled offices. Shouldn’t our kids have the same rights? Shouldn’t teachers be entitled to assist students and prepare lessons in conditions that are comfortable?

Increasingly, school community groups like P&Cs are looking for ways to raise money for air conditioners for their students and staff. State funding policies vary across Australia. In some states, like Western Australia, full funding goes to places in an “air cooling zone” that record twenty-two days of “uncomfortable weather”.

For most schools across the country, however, the responsibility falls to school P&Cs to make up the funding for both air conditioner units and the electricity to run them. Doug Garske, fundraising co-ordinator at Lane Cove West P&C in NSW said, “If it wasn’t for the P&C the school would be hard-pressed to have air conditioning in the rooms.” It’s vital for a fundraising group to make it clear to parents where the money will be spent, as well as the project’s time goals. For instance, parents will certainly be more likely to help if they know their own children will still be at the school by the time the air conditioning project is complete.

In order to choose the best option for your school, consult the Energy Rating website so that the air conditioning units you choose will be kind on the pocket and the environment. The Queensland education department offers a manual for fundraising groups to help them achieve their cooling goals as sustainably as possible.
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One Brisbane state school’s P&C has just completed their air conditioning project. 34 rooms were air conditioned in just over three years, at a cost of $358K. The kids and teachers love it!

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