As summer heats up in Boston, school district officials say classrooms will be kept cool as every building hosting students enrolled in summer learning programs have now been equipped with air conditioning.
Leaders in Boston Public Schools committed to installing air conditioning in schools after 2021 recorded the hottest June in Boston history, which left students learning in sweltering classrooms. They’ve now made good on that promise.
The district placed air conditioning in every classroom in each of the 63 BPS buildings being used for summer learning, finishing the final installations this week, according to the district.
“It’s been a long time. I know we’ve had a lot of requests and concerns from the community about the conditions and temperatures in the buildings,” said Samuel DePina, the district’s deputy superintendent of operations.
In 2021, only 29 of the 63 buildings open for summer programs had air conditioning, which left the rest to resort to other methods to keep classrooms cool that included turning off overhead lights, opening windows, and using fans and blinds.
DePina said BPS has spent $7 million in federal relief money in the last year and half on an initiative to ensure classrooms used for summer programs have air conditioning, and expects to place units inside every classroom throughout the entire district by this fall. So far, 3,838 units have been installed throughout BPS schools. The district has 20 schools that still need air conditioning, but officials could not provide the number of units that need to be installed by the start of the school year.
The units installed were a mix of window units, portable units, and central air units, though few buildings were equipped with central air.
Five schools currently just have portable air conditioners in classrooms because the building’s electrical infrastructure is unable to support installing window units, DePina said. Those schools are Charles Sumner Elementary School, Snowden International School, Taylor Elementary School, Philbrick Elementary School, and Bates Elementary School. DePina said updates to the electrical systems in those schools are in progress, but the district does not have a timeline for when the buildings will be able to support window units.
“I’m glad to see these changes finally happen,” said Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union, adding that educators advocated air conditioning in all classrooms before 2020.
Without air conditioning, Tang said open windows resulted in loud noises and wind, making it difficult to concentrate. Likewise, teachers had to practically shout over loud fans.
Summer learning programs in BPS start July 10 and nearly 17,000 students have enrolled, an increase of about 55 percent over last year, according to the district.
Lauren Rice, chief of pediatric emergency at Tufts Medical Center, said even in classrooms with air conditioning it is still important for educators and supervising adults to ensure students are hydrated as temperatures increase.
“Younger children ... tend to sweat more, and may not remember that they should be drinking water to stay hydrated,” Rice said. “Dehydration is certainly one of the easiest things that we can avoid just by simply allowing students to have water available.”
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.