Demand safe, healthy schools for all students

NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan today hosted a meeting of the Healthy Schools Now Coalition to address the issue of extreme temperatures in schools and the critical need to ensure that students in all schools have safe, healthy learning conditions all year long.

The meeting was attended by educators, parents and other advocates from districts across the state, including Trenton, Paterson, Camden, Plainfield and Jersey City. The advocates in the room joined in calling for lawmakers, the New Jersey Department of Education and the Schools Development Authority to take action. This week, as temperatures skyrocketed, some schools that lack adequate temperature control were forced to close early to protect students’ health. While that was the right decision under the circumstances, it deprived those students of valuable educational time and reinforced the harm caused by the state’s longstanding neglect of schools, especially in New Jersey’s urban centers.

Blistan issued a clear call for action. “There is no excuse in 2017 for schools not to be safe and healthy places for students to learn,” Blistan said. “I’ve been to the SDA headquarters. It’s air conditioned. The people running the SDA shouldn’t tolerate conditions for students and school employees that they would not tolerate for themselves and their staff. This isn’t a new problem and it isn’t going to be solved by the same old excuses. We need repairs, renovations and new school construction, and we need them now.”

Asm. Benjie Wimberly (D-35) also attended the meeting. Wimberly, whose district includes Paterson, where schools were closed early this week due to high temperatures, highlighted the detrimental effect of extreme temperatures on student learning. “The climate in a school building should not impact a student when it comes to test scores,” said Wimberly, “If you’re not comfortable when you are sitting for an exam, you may not reach your full potential.”

NJEA has long supported efforts to require districts to maintain safe temperatures in schools that are conducive to learning and protect the well-being of students and staff. One bill currently under consideration, A-1030, would require each board of education adopt policy establishing temperature control standards and guidelines for school district facilities.

However, setting standards is only a small step. Likewise, canceling school when temperatures are too low or too high is not an adequate solution. NJEA will continue to partner with Healthy School Now and other advocacy groups to push for every school to have adequate temperature control so that students and educators can focus all of their attention on learning.

Stand with NJEA and the Healthy Schools Now Coalition – sign this petition and take action today.

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