It might not be a pop math quiz or an intense session of gym-class crab soccer that has your kid sweating it at school.
The perspiration could be from a combination of high heat and a poor HVAC system. It’s part of an alarming problem — a symptom of planet-wide overheating — that also has an impact on report cards, according to the experts.
Climate.gov has some startling statistics regarding Earth’s temperatures, which have spiked by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. The warming rate per decade has doubled since 1981. What’s more, the 10 warmest years recorded came after 2010, all per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
According to Dr. Joseph Allen of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, many of the nation’s schools, particularly in the Northeast, are built to retain heat. He told Inside Climate News (ICN) that school buildings in Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and other cities were made with traditionally hard winters in mind.
Further, about 41% of districts are due for updated HVAC systems in many of their facilities, according to the federal government.
“I grew up in the Northeast. We never had school closures due to heat, even in June,” Allen told ICN, noting closures in May from high heat. “[W]hat do you do on an extreme heat day?”
Why is it important?
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that heat during the school year impacts learning. The agency said there’s a drop in “academic achievement” of 4% per child when it’s just a couple of degrees warmer than average.
Allen cited a New York study that tracked student performance for a decade. Students were about 12% more likely to bomb tests on hot, 90-degree days. They did better when the temperature was 72 degrees, he told ICN. The heat impacts our ability to concentrate and our memory, per ICN.
“[I]t turns out temperature on the day of the test is going to have this impact on test scores. And this is something we see across every age group,” Allen said in the report.
“We shouldn’t even be having this conversation,” he said. “It is totally unacceptable that we would have kids in a learning environment that was not safe, comfortable and healthy.”
What can help?
Big picture, experts are working on better architecture that can create cooler buildings without adding to the planet-warming air pollution. Choosing electric vehicles and habits that are friendlier to the planet are ways to take action now. Buying local foods and recycling as much as possible also helps.
The EPA recommends parents talk to their children about the signs of heat-related illness, how to stay hydrated, and the repercussions of planet overheating.
“The way things get done is you start to socialize it, and then demand it, and you start asking questions,” Allen said to ICN.
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