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Newly installed air conditioners unable to be used across Queensland schools as heatwave takes hold

By Edwina Seselja, Monday November 30, 2020 - 18:14 EDT
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Many students and teachers will have to work through the heatwave without air-conditioning. - ABC

Queensland students and staff face a sweltering final few days of the school year with newly installed air-conditioning units unusable because school electricity networks cannot cope.

It comes in the midst of a lengthy heatwave being felt across the country.

The State Government's $477 million program to install air-conditioners in all state schools by June 2022 received much fanfare when it was announced in back in February.

While air-conditioning units have been installed in a number of schools, many do not have the network capacity to run the units.

Maree, a primary school teacher on Brisbane's northside, said her classroom's air-conditioning units were installed a week before the October election.

The ceiling fans were ripped out to make way for the units that cannot be turned on.

"We now have no air-con, we have no fans and we do have children sitting in our classroom crying because they felt sick because they were overheated," Maree, who did not give her surname, told .

Claire from the Sunshine Coast said her state high school had almost completed the installation of the units, but they also could not be used as she was under the impression the school would have to foot the bill for the system upgrade.

"We've been told we can't turn them on until there is an update to the school's electrical system and this has not been funded, only the installation of the units," Claire said.

Susan from Beaudesert had a similar story and said her children's school had units installed in January but were unable to use them as the school needed an electrical upgrade.

Veronika in Moorooka said her husband was a teacher's aide and said the school had no idea when they would be able to use the air-conditioning units.

"He comes home drenched, exhausted. It's hot," Veronika said.

"It's not good for the kids either."

Another listener called it a political stunt, with air-conditioning installation being rolled out before the October election.

"My kids are at Junction Park State School, it's the same story," that listener said.

"The power upgrade should have been done at the same time they were installed."

Jack McGuire, general secretary of the Teachers' Professional Association of Queensland, said the capability of each school's network was "obviously not" anticipated when the units were rolled out into schools.

"How did the sparky when he installed them, knowing that there wasn't enough power at the time, check off on that being installed?" Mr McGuire said.

"It then also begs the question if this was being hurried out for some political quota."

Education Minister promises a cooler start to 2021

Minister for Education Grace Grace has promised that the majority of electrical upgrades will be completed over the Christmas break and the department would fund it.

This may come as news to some, with ABC Radio Brisbane hearing from a number of teachers and parents who were under the impression their schools may have to foot the bill.

"We are getting on with the job of installing air-conditioning in every classroom, library and staff room in every school across the state by June 2022," Ms Grace said.

"Part of that process in some schools is upgrading the electrical supply so that recently installed units are safe to use.

"This is a normal part of the installation process to ensure that safety is maintained in the school community at all times.

"All costs associated with any electrical upgrade will be funded by the Department of Education."

"In total, under this program, some 650 state schools will benefit from air conditioning installations, making an additional 10,000 classrooms cooler and more comfortable."

Over three years, the Cooler Cleaner Schools Program will also provide an additional $71 million to expand solar panel installations on state school rooftops.

This is intended to assist in offsetting the additional energy air-conditioners use.


© ABC 2020

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