Gone are the “it’s so hot that all Philly schools are closed” days. Going forward, Philadelphia School District officials aim to close only those buildings without air-conditioning when temperatures soar.
Chief Operating Officer Reginald McNeil said in an email sent to staff Friday that the district will begin paying special attention to conditions inside the 111 buildings that lack air-conditioning in all instructional spaces. (The district has 216 schools, but about 300 buildings in total.)
“If temperatures in instructional spaces are expected to hit 90℉ or higher, we then determine if a temporary shift to virtual learning or other action is necessary,” McNeil wrote. “Our goal going forward is to make that decision only for the schools that do not have sufficient air-conditioning systems to keep temperatures below 90℉ ... and to make the decision as early as possible, preferably the day before, to minimize last-minute disruption for our students, families and staff.”
The district has a stock of aging buildings, many of which don’t have adequate electrical systems to support central air-conditioning or window units in every room.
McNeil said the district has begun “working with urgency over the past five years” to upgrade electrical systems and add air-conditioning.
“Given the average age of our schools, the extensive scope of work needed and the available capacity and resources, each project could take as much as two years to complete,” McNeil wrote. “Since 2018, 82 schools have received central AC systems or full window-unit installations. Projects are currently underway in over 40 schools.”
The district ruffled feathers earlier this week when sweltering temperatures caused schools to close early. The decision to shut schools — all schools, including those with air-conditioning — was made in some cases just before students were actually dismissed.