Teacher’s Union: Connecticut Schools Are “Falling Apart"
New Haven Register, November 7, 2019
By Ben Lambert
Mold. Heat. Cold. Dust. Rodent droppings. Asbestos.
These are a few of the hazards faced by students and teachers in Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Education Association, which announced the results of a survey of more than 1,200 teachers about environmental hazards in classrooms Monday.
According to a release, 74% of teachers surveyed reported experiencing “extreme” hot and cold temperatures in their classrooms; 48% reported “damaged walls, ceiling tiles, carpeting, or vents;” 39% said they had “experienced mold and mildew problems;” and 30% “reported rodent dropping in their classrooms,” among other concerns.
Approximately 53% of those surveyed “reported environmental conditions in their classrooms that are not conducive to teaching and learning,” according to the release.
“We must take action to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our public schools,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams in the release. “This is not just a Connecticut problem. Nearly half of public school buildings across the country have poor indoor-air quality, and teachers have the highest rate of asthma among non-industrial occupations.”
“Devastating cuts to our school budgets ultimately undermine staff, students and critical programs, and now we are also seeing a direct impact on building facilities and maintenance,” said Williams. “As buildings get older, more repairs are needs and budgets need to include adequate funding to keep them in working order, free from toxins and other hazards that can cause health concerns for our children and teachers.”
Sweltering classrooms back to top
Officials cited the temperature in some Bridgeport schools as an example of a common issue in the release.
“In May and June of 2019, teachers at 33 schools in Manchester, Bridgeport, Stamford, Region 10, and Stratford collected a large data sample confirming that sweltering classrooms are indeed a problem in Connecticut schools,” according to the release.
At Bryant Elementary School and Thomas Hooker Elementary School, the indoor temperature crested over 80.5 degrees on 22 days this summer, according to the release.
The temperatue exceeded 80.5 degrees on 10 days at KT Murphy Elementary School in Stamford as well, according to the release.
“Excessive heat in the classroom is not just uncomfortable; it is dangerous,” said CEA President Jeff Leake in the release. “Excessive heat can lead to heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration and can cause greater health risks for those who suffer from asthma, allergies, and other health-related conditions.”
“We need legislative solutions that will ensure a timely and appropriate response to health and safety issues in our schools, including the presence of mold, lead, and extreme temperatures,” said Leake. “We owe it to our children and teachers to provide the best teaching and learning environment possible.”