A coalition of health, city planning and education nonprofits issued a report Thursday urging California leaders to invest $150 billion over a decade to build and renovate schools to mitigate to the increasingly hazardous effects of climate change on children’s health and well-being.
“Most of California’s schools were built long before anyone knew anything about climate change,” said Jonathan Klein, co-founder of UndauntedK12, an Oakland nonprofit that seeks clean-energy solutions to community challenges and infrastructure inequities. “These buildings were not designed to handle things like wildfire smoke and extreme heat. As global warming intensifies and severe weather becomes increasingly frequent, it will become more and more difficult for California’s aging schools to maintain conditions that are safe, healthy and conducive to learning.”
And yet schools are the places where young people spend the majority of their days, the report Climate-Resilient California Schools: A Call to Action observes. Its climate action plan makes 14 recommendations. They include:
- Adopt sustainable construction practices.
- Power schools with solar technology and battery storage.
- Electrify building energy systems to transition away from fossil fuel dependence.
- Upgrade heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to electric heat pumps.
- Improve the efficiency of water use.
- Create green schoolyards that increase shade and reduce the presence of asphalt.
Other groups in the coalition include the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research and the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford University, UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools and Ten Strands, which strengthens strategies on TK-12 environmental literacy.
That first installment of the plan could come about in 2024 if the Legislature approves and voters pass a TK-12 school construction bond that incorporates elements in the report. Matching state money for local district renovations and new construction from the last bond, passed in 2016, has run out of funding.