MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy, a Hull educator who has fought for healthy and safe classrooms, specifically surrounding HVAC issues, for more than 20 years, issued the following statement:
"The heat conditions in our public schools throughout Massachusetts, which have led to school closures and early dismissals, are unacceptable. Public school educators and our allies fought for and championed an influx of education funding through the Student Opportunity Act in 2019 and the Fair Share Amendment in 2022. In 2021, we called on districts to use federal ARPA funds to make, among other things, HVAC repairs and improvements.
“We know that school districts have the money to make transformational changes in our public school buildings and make them safe and healthy for students and educators.
“Students’ learning conditions are the same as educators’ working conditions. In recent years, the MTA has filed legislation that would require an analysis of classroom temperatures. The Green and Healthy Schools provision, found in last year's clean energy bill, contained requirements to study building systems, including HVAC.
“The state has legislation that protects our beloved pets in extreme heat. It’s time to have the same protective measures in place for our students in classrooms.”
For background on state guidelines for heat-related issues and MTA’s efforts in the Legislature to promote safe and healthy schools:
Please refer to 603 CMR 18.04(7)(a)(4):
4. Room temperatures in rooms occupied by students shall be maintained at not less than sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit at zero Fahrenheit outside and at not more than the outside temperature when the outside temperature is above eighty degrees Fahrenheit (measured at two feet from the outside walls and twenty inches above floor level).
The MTA pushed this issue in sessions past. And with the last session, the following language was signed into law as Section 83 of An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind.
SECTION 83. (a) The Massachusetts School Building Authority shall conduct an assessment of elementary and secondary school buildings relative to energy efficiency, building conditions, safety, and public health.
Following completion of the assessment, the department of public health, in consultation with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the department of elementary and secondary education, and the department of energy resources, shall develop, and report on, methods, best practices, and standards for achieving green and healthy schools strategies to for the students of the commonwealth. Methods, best practices, and standards may involve, but shall not be limited to: (i) increasing energy efficiency, increasing electrification, and shifting to fossil-free fuels; (ii) efficiently using resources, including, but not limited to, low flow water fixtures; (iii) improving water and air quality, ventilation, and air circulation systems; (iv) maintaining thermal comfort, humidity, and temperature controls; and (v) taking other actions the department may determine.
(b) The report shall be published on the website of the Department of Public Health and submitted to the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means, the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, the Joint Committee on Public Health, and the Joint Committee on Education not later than December 31, 2024.