Thursday, February 14, 2013

NEWS RELEASE -- Relief for Kids is On The Way

NEWS RELEASE from San Diego Unified School District Trustee Kevin Beiser,
Feb. 14, 2013


SAN DIEGO ­ Vice-President Kevin Beiser of the San Diego Unified School
Board said, ³I am thrilled that the Board of Education approved my motion
to provide air conditioning to our hot climate zone schools with voter
approved Prop Z bond revenues.²

The San Diego Grand Jury report in 1998 highlighted the problem with a
report entitled ³San Diego¹s Educational Sweat Shops² that urged the Board
of Education to install air conditioning in schools. The Grand Jury report
clearly articulated the facts that parents and students have been aware of
for years‹that the oppressive heat is a health and safety risk for kids.
Evidence cited headaches, nose bleeds, and a variety of other heat-related
illnesses. It also documented some classrooms to be as high as 102.5
degrees on some hot days.

As a teacher, Kevin Beiser recalled that for years there was no air
conditioning in his classroom. Students struggled to learn while sweat
poured down their faces, despite having several fans. When his school was
remodeled and air conditioning was installed, the learning environment was
vastly improved and students could comfortably focus on learning.

After being elected to the San Diego Unified School Board in 2010, Kevin
Beiser made it a point to visit school sites and listen to administration,
staff, parents, and students about how he can help improve schools. While
visiting countless classrooms at schools throughout the district, Beiser
felt the heat firsthand. The kids and staff everywhere had a common
refrain: ³The heat is unbearable. Not only is it a health concern, but
it also makes learning almost impossible.² He heard them loud and clear
and began working with Superintendent Bill Kowba and central office staff
to find solutions.

The Prop S funding allocations were already prioritized and decided by the
previous school board. When drafting the ballot language for Prop Z,
Beiser strongly advocated that specific language be included to include
³air conditioning² in hot schools. Voters approved the bond measure in
2012, providing almost $3 billion dollars for improving schools.

After several community meetings, Kevin Beiser asked staff to explore the
cost of installing immediate relief to hot climate zone schools. The
preliminary estimate of $9 million would provide air conditioning to all
59 schools in hot climate ³Zone 3.² That¹s 2,000 classrooms impacting tens
of thousands of students.

The proposal to allocate prop Z funds to install air conditioning in our
hottest schools was put on the agenda for February 12, 2013. Gloria Tran
and countless other parents, staff, kids, and community members launched
one of the largest lobbying efforts in recent memory. They organized
parents in countless schools and began an unprecedented email campaign
that shared personal stories of heat-related health problems. Some folks
even sent pictures of thermometers in schools that showed the ³sweat shop²
conditions were a frightening reality.

Kevin Beiser said, ³To receive a few emails on an issue is not uncommon.
But to receive hundreds of emails every day for almost a week from schools
all over the district was a clear cry for help and demonstrated the
profound significance of the problem we face.²

Scripps Ranch parents were clearly motivated to stand up for their kids
and sent countless emails urging the board to approve Beiser¹s motion to
install air conditioning in all hot zone schools. Scripps Ranch schools
are among the furthest inland, therefore, among some of the hottest in the
district. The community really came together to not only advocate for what
is right for the children of Scripps Ranch but ultimately all kids in the
eastern region of the school district who suffer on hot days. It was very
powerful to have a broad coalition of parents working together for the
common good.

Parents and staff in the Serra High School cluster, in Tierrasanta also
organized to advocate for board approval of this motion. Patrick Henry
High School cluster schools strongly advocated for relief with several
emails also urging a ³yes² vote. The Language Academy in the college area
had a large parent meeting with Trustee Beiser before the board action,
and the parents and staff were vocal in their support for air
conditioning. Many other schools that have suffered for far too long
joined in the chorus calling for swift action to finally address the
concerns of the Grand Jury report, 15 years later.

Vice-President Kevin Beiser¹s motion passed 4-1 with Trustees Marne
Foster, Richard Barrera, Kevin Beiser, and John Lee Evans voting for
relief for the children, and Scott Barnett voting no. At the urging of
trustees Evans and Barrera, the motion was amended from all climate Zone 3
schools to the hottest schools, since a couple are in climate Zone 2 but
have temperatures higher than some located in Zone 3. Since the original
proposal identified that 2,000 classrooms would have air conditioning
installed, Beiser suggested that the target be the hottest 2,000
classrooms to prevent the scope from being dramatically compromised.

At the board meeting on February 12th, Superintendent Bill Kowba informed
the public that due to the scope of the installation, it may take from 18
to 24 months until all the air conditioning units are installed. Deputy
Superintendent Phil Stover said that upon board approval, they will move
immediately to draft and submit plans for state approval and should begin
installing units as soon as September of this year.

Fifteen years after the Grand Jury report, the school board finally began
a serious plan to address this problem and bring relief to kids who have
suffered for far too long. Parents and Beiser acknowledge that they must
remain vigilant to ensure the board continues to protect the health and
safety of children, and our ³Educational Sweat Shops² come to an end.

Kevin Beiser was overjoyed and said, ³A special thank you must go out to
the thousands of parents, staff, and students who emailed the school board
urging them to use Prop Z funds to install air conditioning in hot climate
zone schools. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.²

# # #

Vice-President, San Diego Unified School Board
619-838-5274 cell

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