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Bill setting maximum temperature for classrooms passed by New York legislature. Why some are against it

New York legislature passes bill setting maximum temperature for classrooms
New York legislature passes bill setting maximum temperature for classrooms 02:28

NEW YORK -- A bill just passed by the New York State Legislature sets a maximum temperature for classrooms. It now needs the governor's signature to become law.

Hot classroom bill would set limits for New York public schools

Under the law, if a classroom reaches 82 degrees, action is required; for example, blinds must be lowered, lights must be turned off, windows must be opened or fans must be turned on.

If a classroom reaches 88 degrees, it must be vacated.

More than 1,000 teachers and students provided written testimony.

"It's unhealthy. It's unsafe. Teachers were reporting last year in September that they were leaving with migraines, signs of heat exhaustion and just clothes soaked through with sweat," said Kevin Toolan, with the Patchogue-Medford Congress of Teachers.  

But while well-intentioned, the bill was opposed by the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA). They argued creating "heat days" could send students to even hotter buses and homes.

"We think we need to be more thoughtful because just to say that school should be canceled or students should be moved into other areas, that all presupposes that, number one, there's space for them to move into. Number two, that it's not going to be disruptive to parents," said Jay Worona, deputy executive director of the NYSSBA.

There's no cheap fix. H2M is an engineering firm working with dozens of school districts.

"If we're just adding window ACs, it can range from roughly $20,000 per classroom. If we're doing central systems and overhauling the whole school, it can be $50,000-plus," senior project engineer John Lahey said.

One of the bill sponsors points out there are laws regulating high temperatures in animal shelters but not classrooms. For now, state law only mandates classrooms be no colder than 65 degrees.

The law would apply to only public schools.

Patchogue-Medford School District approves air-conditioning for schools

Kids across New York state are haves and have nots -- those who have air-conditioned classrooms and those who don't.

At Patchogue-Medford School District on Long Island, some classroom temperatures, at times, topped 100 degrees Thursday.

"It's hard to breathe. It's hard to learn. The heat is excruciatingly hot in the classrooms," said Superintendent Dr. Donna Jones.

Climate control is coming to the district; voters just approved a $50 million price tag for 11 schools.

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