Editorial: Unhealthy workplace for students

The MetroWest Daily News

The heat has been oppressive this week, you might say mind-boggling.

If you are reading this newspaper in your office or in an air-conditioned home, you can probably follow the writers' thoughts through sentences and paragraphs even on the hottest day. You can concentrate on the information being transmitted and, we hope, remember what you've read later in the day.

But without AC, with the temperature over 90 degrees and the heavy air making it hard to breathe, paying attention is far more difficult. Following complicated thoughts and absorbing new concepts is tough enough in a comfortable environment, let alone in an oven.

Yet those are the conditions in schools across the state, where learning this week has taken a backseat to surviving another stifling day.

Yes, it's the end of the school year, and not a lot of learning is going on in most classes anyway. But the larger point remains: If we really thought that the work students do was as important as the work of adults, we'd put air conditioning in their workplace.

The lack of air conditioning also reinforces an outdated and inefficient school year. There's no AC, so students can't go to school in the summer. Schools are closed in the summer, so there's no need to put in AC.

Studies prove what every teacher knows: Students lose ground in the summer, so the first six weeks of every school year is spent reviewing things that have already been taught once. A more rational system would give students the breaks they need, but wouldn't suspend their education for 10 weeks in a row.

For that matter, a more rational government wouldn't put millions of dollars into new public buildings, then lock them up for 20 percent of the year. If school officials are serious about closing the achievement gap and getting every child the education he or she deserves, they need to get more use out of school buildings. That's only possible if we provide students with the working conditions adult workers have come to expect, beginning with air conditioning.