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Mayor Michelle Wu just declared a citywide heat emergency for today and tomorrow, with the head index expected to reach into the high 90s. It’s the first day of school for tens of thousands of Boston Public School students. And despite the oppressive heat, BPS leaders say it should get off to a smoother start than last year. Fingers crossed.
Here’s a look at what’s changed, by the numbers:
That’s the approximate number of air conditioning units that BPS has installed across the district. In total, over 100 schools now have central air or window AC units. That’s a big improvement compared to last year, especially with temperatures this week.
That’s the number of BPS schools that still don’t have any AC. Superintendent Mary Skipper said Wednesday that many of the district’s aging buildings have electrical systems that are too old to support window AC units. To cool down classrooms, those schools were told to leave windows open overnight. And for today, the plan is lots of box fans, water bottles and limited time outdoors. Skipper said school leaders are “comfortable” they can get through the next few days, noting that next week’s weather should be more “seasonable.” WBUR’s Emily Piper-Vallillo has more on BPS’s plan to beat the heat.
That’s how many bus drivers BPS has on staff to start the year, with a few dozen more in training. After only half of school buses were on time on the first day last year due a driver shortage and the Orange Line shutdown, the district is now “fully staffed” with bus drivers. In fact, Skipper says they have 100 more drivers than they have runs.
That’s how many additional teachers BPS has hired this year compared to the beginning of the 2022 school year. According to a back-to-school memo released last week, the total is up to 1,419 teachers with a 2.7% vacancy rate, compared to 5% last year.
Not all Massachusetts school districts feel as comfortable as BPS getting through the heat this week. WBUR’s Carrie Jung reports that some districts across the state — including the second- and third-largest — are letting kids out early before the temperatures peak this afternoon, because many of their schools lack air conditioning.
- Worcester, Springfield, Chicopee, Framingham, Melrose, Reading and Westfield are among the districts planning early releases today — and, in some cases, tomorrow, too.
- Meanwhile, Lowell Public Schools are full-on closing today and tomorrow. “The temperatures in many classrooms are expected to be too hot for teachers to teach effectively,” the district said.
Thirty years later, Massachusetts could be poised for another statewide rent control battle. Attorney General Andrea Campbell certified the constitutionality of a proposed ballot question to repeal the state’s ban on rent control, which was first imposed via ballot measure in 1994. It’s a small but important step on the path to 2024.
- What’s next: Supporters now need to collect and submit over 74,000 signatures to state officials this fall — perhaps the biggest hurdle for many ballot initiatives. State Rep. Mike Connolly, who is leading the effort, says the ballot committee is “actively raising funds” for the effort, while talking with both campaign professionals and grassroots supporters. “We feel confident [the signature threshold] is well within our capacity,” he said.
- Meanwhile, opponents are mulling legal challenges to keep the question — which would also let municipalities regulate evictions and brokerage fees — from ever reaching the ballot. Both the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and the conservative Fiscal Alliance Foundation teased plans yesterday to appeal Campbell’s decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
- Zoom out: The rent control initiative was just one of nearly three dozen potential ballot questions given the green light by Campbell. State House News Service has a full roundup here.
P.S.— The most recent episode of our podcast Endless Thread has been getting attention from the likes of The New York Times for solving an enduring mystery: Who was behind the eerie cover of the classic sci-fi/fantasy novel “A Wrinkle in Time.” Well, it endured at least until this past Friday. Listen to the episode here.