Classrooms across the state are becoming serious health hazards for teachers and students alike. That’s according to a report released this week by the Connecticut Education Association.
In the survey, teachers in 334 Connecticut schools reported dilapidated classroom conditions that they say are causing respiratory ailments, sinus issues, and in some cases vomiting.
Over 100 schools districts were represented in the report, including Bridgeport, Naugatuck and Orange.
One teacher documented finding rodent urine and feces in a pre-K classroom. Another educator stated that there were “mousetraps under the radiators with mice sometimes stuck inside and squealing,” according to the report.
Extreme temperatures in classrooms also were logged by teachers, with the mercury rising above 100 degrees in some cases, while at other times plummeting, forcing children to wear coats and bring blankets to class.
The CEA’s legal counsel, Melanie Kolek, explained that this impacts not only children and their health but their parents, too.
“Students needed to bundle up, but students who switched classes throughout the day were finding that other classrooms were extremely hot. So it certainly causes a health concern, but it also leaves a parent or guardian not to know how to dress their students,” Kolek told Connecticut Public Radio.
These conditions are also detrimental to the quality of a child’s education. As classroom temperatures go up, grades go down.
“Our research has found that students were suffering from not only poor health but lower educational achievements, leading to fewer career options throughout the course of their lifetime,” Kolek said.
There are no public health codes in Connecticut concerning school temperatures, which means teachers and children aren’t protected under the law when classrooms become sweltering.
“We treat our dogs better than we treat our students,” said Jeff Leake, president of the Connecticut Education Association. “Kennels have maximum temperature limits, but there are no laws in Connecticut regarding excessive heat in school buildings.”
The CEA hopes to change that. Kolek said the association is working with state lawmakers to pass legislation that addresses the issue of health and safety conditions in school buildings, including air quality and extreme temperatures.
In some districts, school budget cuts mean officials often have to delay needed repairs and renovations. In Bridgeport, for example, air conditioners were purchased for schools, but the district doesn’t have enough money to install them.
The survey conducted by the state’s largest teachers union is called “Is My School Sick?”