School is in session, but the summer season is not officially over. And it can get uncomfortably hot inside school buildings that are not equipped with air conditioning.

Central air units, or even window units, are not required in New Jersey schools. But advocates suggest the feature should no longer be viewed as a luxury — it's a must-have in 2022.

"I think it comes up more and more. Climate change has something to do with that," Elisabeth Gisnburg, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, told New Jersey 101.5. "Now, people are much more willing to say, we want our students and teachers to be comfortable."

New Jersey's schools vary in age, from brand new to more than 100 years old. Nearly all new construction of school buildings includes air conditioning, but plenty of schools still count on open windows and oscillating fans to provide relief to students and teachers during the first few and last few weeks of the academic year.

"It's not only the temperature, there's also air quality," Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg is the school board president in Glen Ridge, which recently equipped four of its five school buildings with AC, through a bond referendum. The district is hoping to equip the high school with AC within the next year.

"Most districts can not fit it into their operating budgets," she said.

Cost is the main obstacle, as retrofitting just one existing school building with air conditioning can be a multi-million dollar project. Brick Township Public Schools plans to spend more than $19 million to upgrade systems across six schools, according to Jersey Shore Online. Part of that money is coming from federal pandemic relief funding.

Advocates for air conditioned schools point to numerous reports about the impact of temperature control on student learning. A study out of the National Bureau of Economic Research, for example, found that without air conditioning, learning in a school declines by 1 percent for each one-degree increase in average school temperature.

"Adults expect their homes, offices and cars to be air conditioned. We shouldn't tolerate anything less for our children," said Sean Spiller, president of the New Jersey Education Association. "We know that extreme temperatures harm learning, and those weather-related extremes are becoming more common."

Legislation reintroduced in 2022 would require each school board in New Jersey to adopt policies establishing temperature control standards and guidelines. The policies must include, among other measures, a protocol to follow in instances where classroom temperatures are identified as being not conducive to learning.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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