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As Ohio Schools Close From Heat, Lawmaker Continues Push For Air Conditioning

Niraj Antani
Niraj Antani
Ohio House
Niraj Antani

For the first two days of October, Columbus City Schools called off classesdue to heat. A big part of the problem? Many of its facilities are not equipped with air conditioning.

It’s an issue that exists throughout the state. Some individual schools in Akron and Cleveland also canceled classes Tuesday and at least one district in the Cincinnati area planned to dismiss its schools early. Columbus City Schools already canceled classes for Wednesday as well.

State Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) is pushing for information on school facilities, and dedicated money for AC.

“Truly, it’s a tragedy that our students' learning is being interrupted just because our school buildings are not in the 21st century,” Antani says.

Antani kicked off his efforts last September, asking the then-state superintendent to gather data on how many schools go without AC and how much it would cost to install it.

“He basically shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘We don’t have that data.’ So my next question was ‘How many schools are not up to ADA standards, how many schools aren’t safe?’” Antani says.

His bill would require the study of all three: AC, accessibility and school safety.

“We obviously often talk about school funding per pupil, but we don’t talk about the hundreds of millions of dollars that goes to school construction,” Antani says.

Antani’s original bill dedicated a quarter of funding to those three amenities, but he says that’s just a starting point for discussion. He believes the state needs a new formula when it comes to school construction and he wants people from across the education spectrum to weigh in.

And Antani points out that the effort isn’t just about a few days in the early fall or late spring.

“Those are the days where they actually close or dismiss early," Antani says. "Those are not the days where people are coming home with headaches, or struggle taking tests because of the heat."

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.