At the March 11 Board meeting, John Castellana, a principal of TMP Architecture, presented a rough estimate to provide central air conditioning of the District’s schools that currently lack central air. The estimate, $22.5 million, appeared out of sight to members of the Board.
Instead the Board is taking a much cheaper, two-pronged approach: first, install window units in the classrooms; second, explore the cost to air condition auditoriums, dining areas and gyms.
The first prong is well underway. Part of the work approved for this summer includes installing air conditioning units in certain elementary school classrooms, at a cost of $120,000. After these air conditioners are installed, all elementary school classrooms will be air conditioned.
"The use of window units for classroom areas has proven to be very successful for the District, and the initial cost is much lower that a complete central system," said Mr. Castellana. He said the window units generally cost more to operate than central air, but in light of their limited usage, "this will still be a viable option for the District."
To evaluate whether air conditioning the auditoriums, dining areas and gyms is feasible, the Board asked Mr. Castellana to prepare cost estimates to air condition these areas with window or roof units. At the Finance Committee meeting on April 15, he said the cost to air condition the auditoriums in the three middle schools would be $912,938. The cost to air condition the gyms, dining areas or multi-purpose rooms at the schools that lack air conditioning in those areas is $1,037,340, he said.
Board President Katie Bailey said she thought the District should prioritize the cost to air condition the common areas in the schools with other capital projects that are on the table, which include roof and masonry repairs and technology.
Board member Richard Rykhus agreed. He said the air conditioning projects, which may benefit student learning, should be prioritized with life/safety projects and with technology. "It won’t be easy to scratch anything off the list," he said.
Board member Andy Pigozzi said he thought there may be a higher priority to air condition the auditoriums at the middle schools than the gyms at various schools. Currently, the auditoriums at all of the elementary schools are air conditioned. He suggested the District obtain input from principals and teachers concerning their priorities.