LCQ2: Installation of air-conditioning systems for aided schools
Under the prevailing policy, air-conditioning systems are not considered as the standard teaching facilities for aided schools. The Education Bureau (EDB) will normally install insulated windows and air-conditioning systems for classrooms and special rooms exposed to traffic noise or fixed noise source as noise mitigation measures in accordance with the noise standards stipulated in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines. For schools which are exposed to noise levels below the aforesaid standards, they have to bear the installation costs and relevant recurrent expenses (such as electricity charges and maintenance costs) themselves if they install air-conditioning systems. It has been reported that after installation of air-conditioning systems by some schools at their own expense, the electricity charges payable by them have increased by several hundred thousand dollars a year, which place a heavy burden on them. In order to pay the electricity charges, some schools have no alternative but cut down on other expenses, such as the fees for specific purposes originally designated for developing courses or promoting extra-curricular activities. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) in respect of each of the school years from 2012/13 to 2016/17, of the numbers of premises and classrooms of aided primary and secondary schools across the territory, the numbers of schools and classrooms in respect of which funding was granted by the EDB for installing air-conditioning systems and the expenses incurred, and whether it knows the number of schools which installed air-conditioning systems at their own expense, the expenses incurred and their sources of funding (set out such information by school type); if such information is not available, of the reasons for that;
(2) given that some school principals have relayed to me that while their schools have been granted funding by the EDB for installing air-conditioning systems, the amount of funding is insufficient to cover the expenses, how the EDB currently calculates the amount of funding to be granted for meeting the related installation costs and recurrent expenses; whether the EDB reviewed such computation methods in the past three years; if the EDB did not, whether the EDB will conduct a review expeditiously; if the EDB will, of the contents of the review plan and its timetable for consulting schools; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) of the number of buildings under the EDB at present which have not been installed with air-conditioning systems; whether the EDB will consider regarding air-conditioning systems as standard teaching facilities so that air-conditioning systems will be installed for the classrooms and special rooms in all aided schools; if the EDB will, of the contents of the relevant plan and the implementation timetable, as well as the estimated annual additional expenses involved; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the questions raised by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen about installation of air-conditioning systems for aided schools in Hong Kong is as follows:
(1) and (2) Air-conditioning systems are not considered as standard teaching facilities under the prevailing policy. The Government will normally install insulated windows and air-conditioning systems for classrooms and special rooms exposed to traffic noise or fixed noise source as noise mitigation measures in accordance with the noise standards stipulated in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines. Some special rooms, such as computer-assisted learning rooms, language rooms and libraries, are fitted with air-conditioning systems because of the equipment or devices contained therein and the function of such rooms require so. Since the expenses incurred for the installation of air-conditioning systems have already been included in the overall construction cost, we do not have further breakdown on it. Separately, schools may, on a need basis, submit applications for the maintenance or replacement of air-conditioning systems installed under the abovementioned policies through the established mechanism of major repairs and emergency repairs. We do not have breakdown figures in this regard.
Generally speaking, the above policies on provision of air-conditioning systems apply to ordinary schools and special schools. Besides, many children with physical disability and severe intellectual disability are wheel-chair bound and need strapping around their bodies for proper positioning, while some have to wear gaiters and flexion mitts during lessons. In light of the special needs of these children, air-conditioning systems are provided to the classrooms, special rooms and student activity centres of all special schools serving these children irrespective of the noise level to alleviate the physical discomfort caused to be them by the fittings. All the 17 special schools for children with physical disability and severe intellectual disability are covered. Similarly, the relevant expenses incurred for installation of the air-conditioning systems have been included in the overall expenses for construction works of the schools in question.
As for the numbers of premises of aided schools across the territory in the recent five years, we generally count all buildings located at a school's registration address as one school premises without sub-dividing the number of buildings of individual schools. In the 2012/13 school year, the numbers of aided secondary and primary schools were 362 and 421 respectively; the numbers in the 2013/14 school year were 362 and 419 respectively; the numbers in the 2014/15 school year were 362 and 418 respectively; and the numbers in the 2015/16 and the 2016/17 school years are the same, at 360 and 420 respectively. From the 2012/13 to the 2016/17 school year, the number of aided special schools remains at 60. At present, the numbers of classrooms of aided secondary and primary schools across the territory are 9 986 and 10 299 respectively, while the number of classrooms of aided special schools are 754. As I have mentioned in the first paragraph of my reply, we will install air-conditioning systems for some of the special rooms in schools due to the equipment or devices therein and the functions of the special rooms, etc. Schools may deploy the "Expanded Operating Expenses Block Grant" to pay for the electricity fees incurred by the relevant air-conditioning systems, fees relating to routine maintenance arranged by the schools themselves, etc. The Education Bureau (EDB) will also provide "Noise Abatement Grant" (NAG) to schools with air-conditioning systems installed as noise mitigation measures. NAG is calculated based on the number of affected classrooms and special rooms, and is for paying the recurrent expenses incurred by the relevant air-conditioning systems, including electricity fees, fees relating to routine maintenance, etc. In the 2016/17 school year, the annual amount of NAG for aided secondary, whole-day primary and special schools is $8,993 per classroom and $22,810 per special room. Regarding the aforementioned special schools for children with physical disability and severe intellectual disability, the annual grant for electricity fees and maintenance fees for the relevant air-conditioning systems is $10,458 per room. The amount of grants will be adjusted according to each year's Composite Consumer Price Index, and the arrangement has so far been effective.
(3) Under the above arrangements, air-conditioning systems are provided to schools and facilities most in need. Further providing air-conditioning systems to all classrooms and special rooms of all aided schools across the board will involve huge amount of public resources, including fees for purchasing and installing the systems, as well as the long-term recurrent expenses relating to maintenance and electricity charges. When reviewing the priority of use of public resources, we need to consider the relevant implications with caution. We will continue to review the existing policy from time to time, and where resources permit, assist schools in upgrading their facilities to provide a better learning environment for students. In fact, aided schools may install air-conditioning systems themselves based on their needs and individual school-based situation, and some schools have already done so. Since such installations do not involve extra government subsidies, schools do not need to file applications to the EDB. Hence, we are not able to provide information on the number of schools that have installed air-conditioning systems themselves, the expenses incurred and their sources of funding.
As regards the arrangement of installation of air-conditioning systems in other buildings under the EDB, air-conditioning is currently provided for office premises under the EDB's management according to the Accommodation Regulations.
Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 13:09
Issued at HKT 13:09