Across Australia, children are sweltering in classrooms with no air conditioning. The government draws boundaries based on meteorological data that determine which schools need air conditioning and which do not. Fortunately, in some cases, the government has rescinded its harsh policies and allowed many schools outside of AC-zones to install air conditioners
If your child is attending a school in an AC-free zone, and you think they need access to cooling, here are several ways to advocate for that shift and deal with the "sweaty" situation.
1. Collect weather information
In most cases, the government draws the boundaries for schools that need AC and schools that don't based on the weather reports in each area. However, weather is constantly changing, and in Australia, the entire continent is expected to get up to 5 degrees Celsius hotter over the next 85 years.
If you don't agree with the government's assessment of the need or lack thereof for cooling in your area, begin to track weather patterns and temperatures. That data will help to bolster your argument.
2. Get the backing of the teacher's unions
If you cannot convince the powers-that-be to buy a new AC, add more voices to your argument. Talk with the teachers at your child's school. These professionals are protected under WorkSafe programs, and they have the right to a safe work environment.
If you talk with the teachers and they feel like the environment is too hot and not conducive to working or learning, you will have more momentum as you approach your local government about adding air conditioners to your child's school.
3. Fundraise for money to buy an HVAC system
Unfortunately, many parents have discovered that in spite of compelling arguments, they cannot convince their children's school districts to pay for HVAC systems. In these cases, you may need to take matters into your own hands and fundraise for a new HVAC system.
However, you should be aware that if your child's school is a new building, you may not be able to add the HVAC system as the installation process may nullify the building's warranty. Check into that before you start fundraising so you can contact the underwriter of the buildings' warranty and ask for an exception to that part of the warranty.
4. Think about efficiency
If you and other concerned parents ultimately pay to have air conditioning installed in your child's school, consider setting up a fund to pay for the cooling bills as well. Whether you are paying for the cooling or the government is paying for it, you should work with school officials to make the system as efficient as possible.
Ensuring an HVAC system in a school runs efficiently includes sealing doors and windows, turning the system off at the end of the day and installing separate thermostats for warmer areas such as gymnasiums. A professional commercial HVAC installer can help you brainstorm more ways to be efficient.
5. Be aware of heat related illnesses
If you cannot get an air conditioner into your child's school, you need to be aware of the threat of heat-related illnesses, and ideally, you should advocate for having the schools' teachers trained in spotting and treating some of these illnesses.
The signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke may vary, but in most cases, the initial signs include confusion, dizziness, cramping, headaches or nausea. If children report any of these symptoms, they should be listened to and taken seriously. They should also be directed to the school nurse immediately. Even before children show symptoms of heat-related illnesses, they should be encouraged to take regular water breaks so they stay well hydrated.