Op-Ed: California makes it too hard for schools to shield kids from extreme heat
California, like other states across the country, is struggling against the heat and a worsening drought. To help, the state is going to require schools to install “cooling, storage, and other weather-related protection measures” in each building, according to a recent filing by the state Office of Education. The changes, however, go above and beyond the minimum standard for protecting schoolchildren when it comes to extreme heat–heat that poses an imminent risk of death for children.
Under the latest regulations, schools will be required to install “a building energy-efficiency measure, climate control, heating and cooling controls, and other heating and cooling protection measures.”
In California, every school building is required to install two types of emergency cooling systems: evaporative cooling and refrigeration. They must be hooked to emergency backup generators that are not allowed to operate while being monitored by officials, which the public doesn’t fully understand.
Under the new rule, the school must install a third type of emergency cooling system: geothermal. The third system would store heat from school-wide energy use, making it a bit less powerful than the other two methods. It is not clear whether this system could be made even slightly more powerful than the alternative methods used in the previous rule.
This is likely the first regulation that states must make since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June, which allowed local decisions to be overruled by more stringent heat emergencies like the ones going on in Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Francisco.
The new rule, however, still relies on California’s low-lying coastline and the mountains that surround the state, leaving low-lying cities and suburbs vulnerable to being unable to escape heat in extreme heat days.
A recent report found that the number of heat-related deaths in Los Angeles are up more than 500 percent in the last 30 years.
According to the California Department of Education’s statement of facts, the schoolchildren’s health and well-being are at risk and that the state must ensure the safety of “school health.” The state also noted that a number of studies have “demonstrated that heat-