In Marseille, dilapidated schools, overheated “thermal filters”

More than thirty degrees on the thermometer in the classrooms, not a meter of shade on the asphalt of the playgrounds: the early heat wave is particularly difficult to bear in these many dilapidated Marseille schools.

Since Monday, a kindergarten teacher from the 4th arrondissement registered 30°C in the class. On Thursday, the thermometer had risen to 34°C. In his classroom, just like in toddlers’ dormitory, facing south, only curtains protect against the sun.

The class, in a school with a metal structure, is experiencing “insulation problems around the windows and on the walls,” according to the latest school board report. “In the winter it is so cold there that we brought our own extra heating,” the teacher recalls.

A third of Marseille’s schools are “true thermal sieves,” according to the town hall’s website. The left-wing municipality, elected in July 2020, inherited more than twenty years of neglect from the previous right-wing majority, who had left public schools.

In this school in the popular Chutes-Lavie district, we keep a bitter memory of the former municipality, which had “accidentally” cut down the only tree in the yard. Result: “We have no shade at all. Apart from spraying the children with water when it is very hot, we have no solution”, testifies the director, who prefers to remain anonymous, subject to the reserve duty.

In the meantime, she wants at least the installation of shade sails, a request that has gone unanswered for months.

At another school, that of the children of Cécile Baron, a member of the collective of schools in Marseille, it is the parents of pupils who “ultimately bought the paintings themselves”, she explains: “The children felt so bad in the garden that there was vomiting”.

– “Impossible to continue learning” –

Another parent representative, Séverine Gil, describes “children who fell on the very hot tar and got badly burned”. She is especially concerned about the little ones, “who don’t know how to deal with the heat, drinking regularly for example”.

It becomes “impossible to keep learning in certain classes,” she denounces, noting a dropout “earlier and earlier in the year.”

“The school renewal plan is very good, with soil drainage projects for example, but it concerns too few facilities and in too long a time,” laments Mrs Gil, who asks for “emergency solutions”.

The mayor of Marseille Benoît Payan (left) has launched a major school renovation project, “historic” in his words, to which the state contributed 400 million euros.

According to Marie-Laure Lambert, researcher sustainable urbanism, this plan has “a very virtuous purpose, since it integrates the issue of revegetation of schools”: “If you think about it, it is nonsense to put children on the asphalt, you have to reconnect children with nature”.

This reintroduction of greenery in the city could also benefit the neighborhoods, she notes, as the town hall plans in its renovation plan to open the school to associations outside school hours, “to pool the built and rebuild to prevent” .

Problem according to the unions and the parents of students: on the fringe of this major work, it would be necessary today to “act urgently” in the schools that are not involved in the plan or not in the short term.

Reached by AFP on Thursday, the deputy mayor in charge of schools, Pierre-Marie Ganozzi, himself a teacher, assured the crèches and schools most in difficulty “to equip with fans and garden hoses”: “Our priority of priorities are the classes in unconditioned algecos, in which the temperature is insane”.

At the beginning of the school year, he announced: “We will have the city council vote on the construction of playgrounds, not against the rain, but against the sun, with retractable tarpaulin systems, for schools without trees”.

These increasingly frequent heat waves should also prompt “thinking about the school calendar,” according to the Chutes-Lavie school principal.

On Thursday evening, mothers of students organized a demonstration in front of the HLM Perrin school in the north of the city. And on Friday their children do not go to class. “We have to give them a doliprane in the evening because they have so many headaches,” Anissa Yettou denounced, as she recovers her children running on the bottle of water she gives them.

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