The ACT Greens have promised to protect school students from heat and smoke in the classroom during bushfire season, announcing an election commitment to make all ACT schools smoke-free, temperature controlled and appropriately ventilated.
The Greens say protecting schools from the effects of climate change and bushfires would require an audit of all existing schools, repairs and upgrades, as well as better planning for future schools.
“This summer’s bushfires devastated our region, and the grey haze of bushfire smoke across our city won’t soon be forgotten,” said the party’s education spokesperson and candidate for Brindabella, Johnathan Davis.
“But just when you thought 2020 was tough enough, our next bushfire season is just around the corner – and in the face of an emergency, now is no time for complacency.”
ACT Labor has also announced work to equip schools for future bushfire seasons, as a part of a promised $99 million infrastructure renewal program for public schools that would include upgrades to heating and cooling.
“One of the priorities for the program will be to improve the capability of schools to manage events like the bushfire season we’ve just experienced,” said Labor’s education spokesperson and candidate for Ginninderra Yvette Berry.
The Canberra Liberals have said they will prioritise upgrades for schools, including heating and cooling, after an audit of school buildings and facilities.
The election announcements come as the ACT prepares for the upcoming 2020-21 bushfire season, which this year won’t start until 1 November, one month later than usual due to a wetter than average spring.
The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) said in a statement last week (Friday 19 September) the upcoming bushfire season would look “very different” from the previous two, as predicted by the Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook.
“As a result of the recent rain in August, and the expectation of further rainfall in spring with the current La Niña alert, it is anticipated that forest flammability will remain low over the coming months,” the statement said.
The ACT’s bushfire season typically begins on 1 October and runs until 31 March, unless conditions warrant a variation.