The cost of cooling schools; State meets with contractors to get bids on budget

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Students head back to school on Monday and, like years past, many of them will be heading into classrooms with no air conditioning.

The state says it’s working to change that. Department of Education officials met with all 36 qualified contractors on its list this week. The goal of the meeting was to find out how to get the bids within the state’s budget, while still cooling the largest amount of classrooms. One school that is high on the DOE’s list is Campbell High School. KHON2 went to find out how they’re preparing for the heat.

Right now 44 of Campbell High School’s 149 classrooms have air conditioning. Campbell Principal John Lee says more help is coming, but it likely won’t arrive this school year.

Classrooms at Campell High School have been some of the hottest in the state. It also has the highest enrollment coming in at around 3,100 students, seating 30 students per classroom in some cases. Principal Lee says keeping cool in the classrooms can be a challenge, “Just truly unbearable conditions in the classroom mid to high 90s and students and staff members sweating the entire day.”

Already for this year temperature monitoring devices have even been installed on portable classrooms to monitor just how hot it gets. But principal Lee says progress is being made, “We are starting a building at a time and looking at that first. And then we’re going to take a detour to see what is going to be effective both in terms of cooling our classrooms and cost-effectiveness is well.”

Campbell High School is doing everything it can to beat the heat. They have traditional AC in some buildings along with plenty of fans. In some portables they have portable roll away AC units, and one portable has a Photo Voltaic AC system. The was donated to the school by a group called Farenheight 73 who raised more than $20,000 for the project. “It’s basically a split type system it’s driven by photo voltaic panels that are on the roof of the building so, a win-win situation. Cool classroom and not the big boost and our electric consumption.”

But Campbell isn’t the only school feeling the heat. The DOE has a whole list of who’s gotten what so far when it comes to cooling classrooms. And just this week DOE officials met with contractors in an attempt to get the price of bids down. The Department of Education’s Dann Carlson says the meeting was a success. “We changed a number of things in the meeting yesterday. It was actually feedback for us as well and we listen to the contractors they provided some very good feedback.”

The bid process will begin again on Monday with four of 11 bids already being filled. Once the builders get the materials together, the units will go in during this school year.

Carlson says the DOE is doing everything it can to work with schools for solutions, “We know it’s coming, we know there’s going to be a few months, where is going to be uncomfortable but we’re trying to do everything we can. We learned our lesson from last year.”

The Department of Education is considering a proposal to include heat days this school year, but that determination has yet to be made.

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