Puerto Rico’s public schools clamor for air conditioning to get relief from record-breaking heat

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. inoperable / ɪnˈɒp ər ə bəl / (adj.) – not able to function or work

    My phone has been inoperable since I dropped it.

  2. veto / ˈvi toʊ / (v.) – to not allow or to reject something, such as a proposed law, plan, or suggestion

    The president vetoed the controversial law.

  3. inhumane / ˌɪn hyuˈmeɪn / (adj.) – not kind to people or animals

    Animal rights organizations believe that killing animals for sport is inhumane.

  4. drag (someone’s) feet / dræg fit / (idiom) – to delay doing something because one doesn’t want to do it

    The workers are unhappy because the company is dragging its feet on providing their bonuses.

  5. behemoth / bɪˈhi məθ / (n.) – something very big and powerful, such as a company or an organization

    The mall chain behemoth has caused many small businesses to close down.


Read the text below.

Students and teachers are sweltering in public schools across Puerto Rico that lack air conditioning and are demanding government action as the U.S. Caribbean territory struggles to respond to climate change effects while it bakes under record heat this year.

Two months ago was the hottest August on the island since record-keeping began. Puerto Rico broke the record of the daily maximum temperature six times and the highest minimum eight times, according to the National Weather Service in San Juan.

Public schools with no air conditioning or whose cooling systems are inoperable due to power outages blamed on a hurricane-battered electric grid are seeking relief, but it’s unlikely they’ll find it soon.

In August, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi quietly vetoed a bill that called for air conditioning systems for public schools. The move outraged many, with some calling the situation inhumane as students organized protests.

“It’s irresponsible because this is an emergency. It’s a matter of public health,” said Yasim Sarkis, a social worker at an elementary school that often lacks electricity and whose son attends a public high school with no air conditioning.

Air conditioning is considered a necessity by many on this tropical island of 3.2 million people, with government offices, businesses, and homes running cooling systems round-the-clock, especially in the summer.

But air conditioning remains rare at public schools, which depend on fans and trade winds that blow through windows with metal shutters.

“Our classrooms have turned into saunas, and the Department of Education has dragged its feet on responding to the situation,” said Edwin Morales, vice president of the island’s Federation of Teachers.

It’s unknown how many public schools lack air conditioning or have air conditioners that don’t work because of electrical problems. The island’s education department, an oft-criticized bureaucratic behemoth that oversees one of the largest school districts in a U.S. jurisdiction with more than 259,000 students and more than 850 schools, said it’s trying to gather that data.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Do you agree that the lack of air conditioning in public schools in Puerto Rico is inhumane? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Pedro Pierluisi’s move to veto a bill that called for air conditioning systems for public schools outraged many. If this happened in your country, do you think people would have reacted the same? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Despite the urgency of the situation, why do you think the government of Puerto Rico is dragging its feet to provide solutions to the air conditioning problem in public schools? Discuss.
  • Does your government respond quickly to issues related to public health? What makes you say so? Discuss.