Rhode Island can take on climate change, make school facilities safe and healthy for students and the school community, create good union jobs, and save school districts millions of dollars in energy costs.

Many Rhode Island public school buildings are in dire need of basic repairs and upgrades, including antiquated heating and air conditioning systems, leaky and deteriorating rooftops, poor ventilation, crumbling ceilings, and rotted pipes and lead service lines. The list goes on. These conditions not only risk the health and safety of our children and teachers, but they can also lead to poor learning outcomes. Often, schools in the worst condition exist in low-income communities of color, where decades of disinvestment can translate into lower graduation rates and higher asthma rates.

The condition of school buildings has a direct impact on the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn. School buildings should be healthy and safe for all of its occupants. Now is the time to make our schools a model for net-zero energy buildings and advance the state’s effort to combat climate change. As Rhode Island considers effective pathways to decarbonize its public building infrastructure, it should focus its first investments on our school facilities.

It’s time to fully transition our schools into the clean energy future while creating thousands of good union jobs, cutting carbon emissions, and slashing energy costs. An investment in our children and workers is an investment in our communities. Let’s make a real impact on combating climate change while addressing long-standing inequities within our public-school buildings.


  • Click here to sign-on to the Green and Healthy Schools campaign and support the effort to decarbonize all public-school buildings in Rhode Island by 2035.
  • Want to learn more about the campaign or how you can get involved? Email erica@climatejobsri.org

Number of schools:
Rhode Island is home to 311 schools. The majority are public elementary schools. The approximate average age of the school buildings is 56 years.

Child health impacts:
One of the most common building deficiencies is antiquated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

RI is ranked 9th in the country for childhood asthma, with a 10.9% childhood asthma rate. Poor indoor air quality in our public schools only exacerbates this public health crisis.

Facility conditions present serious physical and health hazards that affect student’s health, thinking, and performance.

Total CO2 from schools statewide:
Our schools emit approximately 105,913 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year, which is the same as 23,024 cars.

Total energy costs:
School districts statewide spend approximately $35.2 million per year on school energy costs for electric, natural gas, and heating oil.

Estimated job creation:
Transitioning all Rhode Island K-12 public schools to net-zero would create a total of 11,209 direct jobs over a total of nine years.