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Sunday, June 26, 2022

“Children’s roast”: This is how schools have to adapt to climate change

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Silvia received a call this Friday to pick up her son from the elementary school in Madrid because his stomach hurt a lot. “Possibly it was a virus because I had colleagues who were also sick. But when I got to class, I saw that it was very hot. The kids were really toasty. At this temperature, it doesn’t surprise me that they feel bad,” he says. The early heat wave sweeping the peninsula caused scores of children and teenagers to feel dizzy and faint, and sparked protests from families and teachers from Andalusia to Catalonia. In Madrid, CC OO has filed a complaint with the Labor Inspectorate after receiving “hundreds of complaints” over the week. Projections suggest that climate change will make muggy heat waves more frequent and intense. A horizon before which experts and representatives of the educational community are calling for a plan to adapt educational centers to the new reality, as well as the flexibility to take urgent action when necessary.

The permanent installation of air conditioning, the sources consulted agree, should be reserved as a last resort in case architectural solutions that do not imply sustainable energy consumption fail.

There are around 30,000 public and private training centers in Spain. And right from the start, says Marta Vall, president of the Superior Council of Architectural Colleges in Spain, “detailed studies of the needs must be carried out from center to center” because each one is different and the heat problem is very different from one area to another. , even within the same autonomous communities. “Sometimes the improvements aren’t that expensive to implement, but given the number of training centers, it’s a major project,” he adds. Building schools to better withstand heat waves and other extreme weather events is critical. Architect David Baena, who has designed several, believes that the demands from administrations are not enough, although they have increased in recent years. In any case, the new training centers will not solve the problem. The sharp decline in the student body as a result of the declining birth rate suggests that, with some exceptions, school facilities are becoming obsolete. The measures must therefore primarily address the existing ones, both architects affirm.

The action, recently carried out in 11 schools in Barcelona, ​​brings together almost all the elements prescribed by the sources consulted. The city council initiative, launched in 2019 and financed with European funds, has taken over schools that have already been built in order to refurbish them and adapt them to climate change. In the courtyards, some of the cement covering them has been replaced with land and greener soil that retains moisture and is cooler. Shades were added by vegetation and photovoltaic pergolas. And water points were installed so the children could cool off. Inside the building, work was primarily done on the facades, which were thermally insulated and sun protection such as awnings, canopies and roller shutters were installed, and the cross-ventilation of the classrooms was improved so that more air can flow.

The analysis of the impact on temperature and air quality in schools has not yet been presented, but according to Irma Ventanyol, director of the Barcelona City Council Office for Climate Change and Sustainability, ​​the first data are positive “and the schools where it has been intervened and they are very happy”. School yards are now also used as “climate shelters” open to the neighborhood on weekends in July and August (not during the week as schools in Barcelona host summer schools for children during those months). Irma Ventanyol, a biologist specializing in engineering and environmental management, adds that no air conditioning has been installed in any of the centers. “If you have a very poorly insulated building, it would take a tremendous amount of energy to counteract that. The first thing to do is to make the building more energy-efficient. And if thermal comfort is still not achieved in the interior, then other types of active solutions, as they call those that consume energy, should be considered,” he affirms.

Saving air conditioning as the last bullet is recommended, sources agree, because widespread use would worsen the climate and energy crisis the country is going through. And also, says Carmelo Jené, spokesman for the student family association Giner de los Ríos in Madrid, because school is an important place to teach children about sustainability.

The Barcelona example can also serve as an economic guide to the challenge of adapting schools. Acting in the 11 Barcelona schools cost five million euros. Extrapolating this number (which includes part of the research on the results and a pedagogical project among students), the intervention in 15% of the Spanish centers would cost around 2,000 million euros. The spokesman for the Madrid Family Association believes that, given the scale of the problem, the European Recovery Fund should be used to support this school renewal.

Change school calendar?

Do we also need to change the school day or calendar? CC OO Education Secretary Francisco García believes that there is a debate that needs to be had, but that the time has not yet come for general decisions because, although heat waves are increasing, they do not occur on the same dates every year. “What we have to do is be ready to act flexibly. And when a heat wave like the one we are experiencing comes a year and still there is no time to adjust the centers, quick action can be taken to modify the day or even decide that students and teachers stay home for a few days and spend online Teach.

As the adjustment arrives, pediatrician Quique Bassat believes education administrations and centers can also take basic measures, such as: B. Changing the class schedule, preventing late morning physical education classes, increasing ventilation as much as possible, and making sure students drink a sip of water about every half hour.

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