March 4, 2024

Fans in the classrooms of the Auró school in Barcelona.
Fans in the classrooms of the Auró school in Barcelona.Carlos Ribas

The Department of Education has presented the expected shock plan to deal with heat waves in schools, which counts as a star measure the installation of air conditioning in one or two common spaces of some educational centers, such as libraries or gyms. At the moment, a hundred centers of the Department will benefit from the measure, basically institutes, while in primary schools it will be the municipalities that assume the project and its cost. Education plans to allocate five million euros to have the devices ready in September and calculates that in five years it would cover the 800 centers it owns. “It is the beginning of the road. From today to tomorrow it is impossible to reach everyone,” says the Department.

The Minister of Education, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, had announced on more than one occasion that the Department was preparing a plan to deal with episodes of heat, such as those experienced last year and which raised thermometers above 30 degrees. in many classrooms. Cambray has taken advantage of a question from En Comú Podem in the control session of the Parliament to announce, in just one minute, that in the coming weeks the project would be launched to air-condition some common space in a hundred centers. Shortly after, Department officials, in a meeting with the press, explained the details.

102 centers will benefit next year. Education ensures that, to select them, priority has been given to nursery schools and special education centers, as well as the location and characteristics of the building. Thus, of the total, 71 are institutes, 20 are Generalitat nurseries and 11 special education schools. Air conditioning will be installed in common spaces such as the dining room (many institutes do not have one), the gym, libraries or multipurpose spaces. The Department will invest some five million in some works that must be finished before the start of the next academic year.

“It is about setting up a climate-controlled space that serves as a climate refuge to deal with episodes of heat,” the Department has justified, admitting that this space falls short for the large volume of hundreds of students that can be concentrated in an institute. “The centers will have to decide how they are organized. It is very difficult for all the students to be able to enter that space, so the centers must decide how they distribute them among the different spaces at all times”, he adds.

Education plans to cover in five years all the institutes, nurseries and special education centers of its ownership, some 800 centers, which would mean an investment in installation of about 25 million.

The Department does not include primary schools here, because their buildings are municipal, although the regulations indicate that the municipalities assume maintenance work and the Department, large works and structural aspects. According to Education, there are already 50 town councils that have offered to air-condition schools, including Barcelona, ​​L’Hospitalet or Sitges. At the moment, no aid is contemplated for small municipalities with fewer resources. “All the municipalities have the resources to maintain their educational centers, but if they have difficulties, the Government will be at their side,” the Department asserts.

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However, it is not starting from scratch, since there are currently already air-conditioned centers, specifically, 287 institutes (41% of the total) or 252 schools (16%). These are basically centers in prefabricated modules, newly built or those that have already been installed on their own initiative by the centre, families or town councils.

The plan also contemplates an alert system, so that the centers will be notified, via Telegram and three days in advance, when episodes of high temperatures are expected so that the centers can reorganize in time. However, the Department denies the possibility of reducing hours. “The school schedule must be maintained,” they resolve.

2,500 more fans

In addition to air conditioning, the Department points to other measures to mitigate the heat, in some facilities, as they admit, “that are not prepared for high temperatures.” One of them is the reform of the patios to introduce elements of shade and trees, for which it announces aid soon.

A new purchase of 2,500 fans is also being prepared, which will be distributed from mid-May to schools and institutes. These are added to the 2,500 distributed last year in 141 public centers (out of a total of 2,500) at a cost of 81,000 euros. Despite their low cost, Education is limited to this number, “due to market supply problems”, and ensures that they will be standing or wall fans, but rules out ceiling fans, as claimed by the schools.

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