The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Facing Heat and Smoke without A/C or Ventilation

Jul 23, 2023

When a heat wave hit the northwestern U.S. in May, schools in the region were not prepared to protect their students from the high temperatures. Many schools did not have functioning air conditioning (A/C) systems. Some schools did not even have A/C, like Adelaide Elementary in Federal Way, Washington, about 20 miles south of Seattle.

To make matters worse, Adelaide Elementary did not have a school nurse on duty either. Office workers tried to take care of children who were having nose bleeds, headaches and anxiety attacks.

The officials’ answer to this crisis was to send the students home—which of course is not a solution, especially for working-class students who don’t have air conditioning at home either, and whose parents have to risk losing their jobs to stay home.

Considering the stubborn heat waves and toxic smoke from forest fires this summer, this kind of scenario is likely to play out in many parts of the country when schools begin to open in August. The U.S. General Accountability Office found in 2020 that about 36,000 public schools (40% of all public schools in the U.S.) needed to replace and update their HVAC (heat, ventilation and air conditioning) systems. And as for school nurses, more than 40% of U.S. public schools don’t have a full-time registered nurse, according to a survey by the National Association of School Nurses.

We all know which schools those are—working class schools. For years, public schools in working class areas and rural communities have been experiencing a shortage of staff in all areas—teachers, maintenance workers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers—not just nurses. For years, large class sizes and deteriorating, unsafe school buildings have been making learning impossible for working class children. During the Covid pandemic things did not improve either—they continued to get worse, in fact—despite all the promises made by politicians and school officials.

So, what are the chances that the politicians and officials will fix HVAC systems and hire enough workers in all schools THIS year?

Zero. Improvements will only come from the grass roots activity of workers fed up with this unbelievably negligent administration of the schools.