Teachers in Puerto Rico are seeking relief from the heat, teaching in record temperatures with no AC.
A total of 47 nights with temperatures exceeding 80°F (26°C) were reported in Puerto Rico this summer, the hottest on record for the island. Schools without air conditioning or with inoperable cooling systems due to power outages caused by hurricane-damaged infrastructure are seeking immediate relief. However, Governor Pedro Pierluisi recently vetoed a bill calling for air conditioning systems in public schools, sparking outrage and protests from students and their families.
Many consider air conditioning a necessity on the tropical island, where government offices, businesses, and homes run cooling systems year-round. In contrast, public schools rely on fans and open windows with metal shutters to combat the oppressive heat. The situation has led to classrooms becoming intolerably hot, affecting both students and teachers.
A survey of 2,500 teachers in Puerto Rico revealed that over 83% lack air conditioning in their classrooms. More than 50% of public schools have reported heat-related emergencies, including incidents of fainting due to extreme temperatures.
To address the crisis, the education department has distributed 21,000 fans and proposed measures such as allowing students to wear Bermuda shorts, modifying schedules, and adding more fruits and liquids to school menus. However, these proposals have faced criticism, with some advocating for the implementation of air conditioning systems.
Governor Pierluisi’s veto of the bill is seen by many as an unacceptable response to the emergency. Advocates argue that the government should prioritize the well-being of students and teachers in Puerto Rico, as lengthy exposure to extreme heat can lead to health issues. As the impacts of global warming become increasingly apparent, the need to address heat-related challenges in Puerto Rican public schools grows. Students are facing disrupted classes, teachers are raising funds for fans, and specialized courses like cooking and cosmetology are affected due to the intense heat.
Amid these challenges, students and teachers continue to endure the extreme conditions, while advocates emphasize the importance of addressing this crisis as part of Puerto Rico’s broader efforts to adapt to climate change.