As heat index rises, city officials call school conditions 'inhumane,' suggest state funding

"There needs to be the investment by the state to find improvements to our schools."

Mike DeNardo
September 04, 2018 - 7:23 pm
From left: American Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan, local Commonwealth Association of School Administrators President Robin Cooper, and City Councilwoman Helen Gym discuss state funding for air-conditioned classrooms.

Mike DeNardo | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — With a heat index expected around 105 degrees, Philadelphia schools are dismissing students at noon Wednesday, and some say that illustrates the need for better conditions in the city's aging school buildings. 

As students left a sweltering Paul L. Dunbar School, a trio of union and city leaders stood outside. City Councilwoman Helen Gym said on days like this, there are few cool places in the building for students to find relief.

"These conditions in our schools right now are brutal. They're inhumane, and we've got to figure out how to make some change immediately," she said.

RELATED: Philadelphia public schools closing early on Wednesday

Standing next to the local Commonwealth Association of School Administrators President Robin Cooper, American Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan suggested one change: State money should fund window air conditioners.

"There needs to be the investment by the state to find improvements to our schools," he said. "That includes putting an air conditioner in every classroom."

Jordan said the district should not have held a full day of classes on such a hot day like Tuesday.

"The emails have been pouring in. I got one from a teacher saying, 'Jerry, help. I'm on the third floor and it is so hot, my kids can't think,' " he added.

But Gym noted the problem is not about starting the school year before Labor Day — it's about a lack of state funding to upgrade school buildings.

Gym added that the district needs a heat plan that includes providing cool places in school for students to find relief. Her office estimates a budget of $4 million to buy air conditioners, but that doesn't include the cost of wiring classrooms to handle them.