Vice-President Kevin Beiser of the San Diego Unified School Board said, “I am thrilled that the Board of Education approved my motion to provide air conditioning to our hot climate zone schools with voter approved Prop Z bond revenues.”
The San Diego Grand Jury report in 1998 highlighted the problem with a report entitled “San Diego’s Educational Sweat Shops” that urged the Board of Education to install air conditioning in schools. The Grand Jury report clearly articulated the facts that parents and students have been aware of for years—that the oppressive heat is a health and safety risk for kids. Evidence cited headaches, nose bleeds, and a variety of other heat-related illnesses. It also documented some classrooms to be as high as 102.5 degrees on some hot days.
As a teacher, Kevin Beiser recalled that for years there was no air conditioning in his classroom. Students struggled to learn while sweat poured down their faces, despite having several fans. When his school was remodeled and air conditioning was installed, the learning environment was vastly improved and students could comfortably focus on learning.
After being elected to the San Diego Unified School Board in 2010, Kevin Beiser made it a point to visit school sites and listen to administration, staff, parents, and students about how he can help improve schools. While visiting countless classrooms at schools throughout the district, Beiser felt the heat firsthand. The kids and staff everywhere had a common refrain: “The heat is unbearable. Not only is it a health concern, but it also makes learning almost impossible.” He heard them loud and clear and began working with Superintendent Bill Kowba and central office staff to find solutions.
The Prop S funding allocations were already prioritized and decided by the previous school board. When drafting the ballot language for Prop Z, Beiser strongly advocated that specific language be included to include “air conditioning” in hot schools. Voters approved the bond measure in 2012, providing almost $3 billion dollars for improving schools.
After several community meetings, Kevin Beiser asked staff to explore the cost of installing immediate relief to hot climate zone schools. The preliminary estimate of $9 million would provide air conditioning to all 59 schools in hot climate “Zone 3.” That’s 2,000 classrooms impacting tens of thousands of students.
The proposal to allocate prop Z funds to install air conditioning in our hottest schools was put on the agenda for February 12, 2013. Gloria Tran and countless other parents, staff, kids, and community members launched one of the largest lobbying efforts in recent memory. They organized parents in countless schools and began an unprecedented email campaign that shared personal stories of heat-related health problems. Some folks even sent pictures of thermometers in schools that showed the “sweat shop” conditions were a frightening reality.
Kevin Beiser said, “To receive a few emails on an issue is not uncommon. But to receive hundreds of emails every day for almost a week from schools all over the district was a clear cry for help and demonstrated the profound significance of the problem we face.”
Scripps Ranch parents were clearly motivated to stand up for their kids and sent countless emails urging the board to approve Beiser’s motion to install air conditioning in all hot zone schools. Scripps Ranch schools are among the furthest inland, therefore, among some of the hottest in the district. The community really came together to not only advocate for what is right for the children of Scripps Ranch but ultimately all kids in the eastern region of the school district who suffer on hot days. It was very powerful to have a broad coalition of parents working together for the common good.
Parents and staff in the Serra High School cluster, in Tierrasanta also organized to advocate for board approval of this motion. Patrick Henry High School cluster schools strongly advocated for relief with several emails also urging a “yes” vote. The Language Academy in the college area had a large parent meeting with Trustee Beiser before the board action, and the parents and staff were vocal in their support for air conditioning. Many other schools that have suffered for far too long joined in the chorus calling for swift action to finally address the concerns of the Grand Jury report, 15 years later.
Vice-President Kevin Beiser’s motion passed 4-1 with Trustees Marne Foster, Richard Barrera, Kevin Beiser, and John Lee Evans voting for relief for the children, and Scott Barnett voting no. At the urging of trustees Evans and Barrera, the motion was amended from all climate Zone 3 schools to the hottest schools, since a couple are in climate Zone 2 but have temperatures higher than some located in Zone 3. Since the original proposal identified that 2,000 classrooms would have air conditioning installed, Beiser suggested that the target be the hottest 2,000 classrooms to prevent the scope from being dramatically compromised.
At the board meeting on February 12th, Superintendent Bill Kowba informed the public that due to the scope of the installation, it may take from 18 to 24 months until all the air conditioning units are installed. Deputy Superintendent Phil Stover said that upon board approval, they will move immediately to draft and submit plans for state approval and should begin installing units as soon as September of this year.
Fifteen years after the Grand Jury report, the school board finally began a serious plan to address this problem and bring relief to kids who have suffered for far too long. Parents and Beiser acknowledge that they must remain vigilant to ensure the board continues to protect the health and safety of children, and our “Educational Sweat Shops” come to an end.
Kevin Beiser was overjoyed and said, “A special thank you must go out to the thousands of parents, staff, and students who emailed the school board urging them to use Prop Z funds to install air conditioning in hot climate zone schools. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
The San Diego Unifed School District announced Thursday (May 17) its first ever “Harvey Milk Day Proclamation” which will be unrolled to all schools within its system. According to the district, no other school system in San Diego County has had an official Harvey Milk Day.
“Harvey Milk Day Proclamation” was first introduced by Trustee Kevin Beiser to the board members of the San Diego Unified School District. The decision was approved by the board by a 5-0 vote.
“After working to enact historic anti-bullying policies, I am thrilled that we are honoring the contributions of such a great man who stood up for equal rights for all,” said Beiser. -- San Diego LGBT Weekly, May 17, 2012
More than 500 buses in the San Diego Unified School District will run on biodiesel fuel by the end of the 2014-15 school year.
| Vista Grande students and their project. |
Molded plastic foam lunch trays have long been on the menu at school cafeterias, but after urging by students at Vista Grande Elementary school -- not to mention Board of Education Trustee Kevin Beiser -- San Diego Unified's Food Services Department is testing more environmentally friendly trays for the next few months at Vista Grande and Ocean Beach elementary schools.
The Vista Grande students got the project rolling during the last school year, when students in Micheline Wagner's fourth grade participated in Project Citizen, a national program that involves students in community problem-solving.
Their efforts caught the eyes of their Tierrasanta neighborhood's representative on the district's Board of Trustees, Kevin Beiser, and the school's area superintendent, Dr. David Lorden. Beiser carried a resolution to the Board of Education that was approved, mandating a switch from plastic foam trays to something more environmentally friendly by 2015.
"I was thrilled to work with environmentally conscious students and other community groups to ban toxic plastic foam lunch trays from our schools," said Beiser. "The era of San Diego Unified Schools dumping over 15 million plastic foam lunch trays into our landfill every year is coming to an end."
The test trays may look familiar to the average consumer as they're made by the same company, Huhtamaki U.S., and with much the same process, as the Chinet brand products on sale at the local supermarket.
"We really want to test the performance of these trays, really see how the kids like them," said Janet Whited, recycling specialist with PPO.
The molded fiber lunch trays are being tested at two schools, Vista Grande and Ocean Beach elementary schools. Staff will be looking at how they hold up to the variety of foods served in elementary schools. Sometimes the entrees or side dishes are hot, sometimes cold; some have a sauce that might soak in, others don't. The students' opinions will also be recorded.
Recycling was also a factor. Some tray types are ready for composting, but there isn't a composting facility in San Diego large enough to take the thousands of trays used by San Diego students every day. The solution came in the molded fiberboard trays and the district's waste-disposal company, EDCO, which will pick up the recyclable trays for free.
In the spring, San Diego Unified's food services department traditionally puts commodities for the next school year out for bid. It's expected the fiberboard trays will be included as bid items, along with the plastic foam trays.
"We hope we can get the price down with competitive bidding," said Whited. "They're currently about twice the price of the plastic foam trays."
For more information on the program, contact Whited at at (858) 637-6268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.