The school board reviewed two options at its Tuesday meeting to speed up the project by installing the heating and cooling systems during the academic year. While the timeline would be quicker, it would require teachers to temporarily move into different classrooms.
The first option would mildly accelerate the process by virtue of having teachers use temporary rooms so that installation could happen. The other, more aggressive, approach would combine school year installation with a "design-build" strategy, in which the district would hire a contractor who could order equipment concurrently with getting the project design approved by the state.
Currently, there are long delays to receive many supplies, including a 48-week lead time to get the equipment needed for electrical upgrades that have to precede the addition of heating and cooling systems at the elementary schools, Eric Holm. director of facilities and construction, told the board.
District staff recommended adopting the faster design-build timeline. No formal vote was taken, but the three board members present at Tuesday's meeting were generally supportive of the idea. Board President Ken Dauber and board member Shounak Dharap were absent.
Vice President Jennifer DiBrienza, who was leading Tuesday's meeting in Dauber's absence, noted that wildfires further complicate matters by forcing teachers to keep their windows closed.
"Couple the air quality days with an increasing number of unbearably hot days and it just becomes necessary," DiBrienza told the Weekly.
District staff plan to bring the budget impact of these potential changes to the board at a future meeting. DiBrienza said that whether the item requires a formal vote will likely depend on the scope of the change, since the board already approved the initial plan to use bond funds to add air conditioning back in February 2021.
Currently, about 380 elementary and middle school classes don't have air conditioning, according to Holm's report to the board. Only two elementary schools have air conditioning in parts of their campuses, and the middle schools have air conditioning in their libraries and some auxiliary spaces. High schools have air conditioning "across a majority of the campuses," Holm wrote.
Teachers' union president Teri Baldwin spoke at Tuesday's meeting in favor of accelerating the installation, noting that two summers have already passed since the board originally approved adding air conditioning. According to Baldwin, teachers have sent her photos of their classrooms when temperatures have hit around 96 degrees.
"When it's that hot, the kids are sitting in front of fans — it's a lot. I just really urge you to speed this up as quickly as possible because I already feel like we're two summers behind what we could have done," Baldwin said.
Adding air conditioning is already included in the plans for bond-funded construction projects that are currently underway. For the other campuses, even under the accelerated timelines that Holm presented, installation wouldn't begin until next school year. DiBrienza told the Weekly that's likely because of the long wait times to get certain supplies.
Under the design-build proposal, air conditioning would be added to the vast majority of campuses by the end of the 2024-2025 school year, with final work done in the 2025-2026 year.
In the meantime, the district has purchased 400 pedestal fans to distribute to rooms without air conditioning. Ceiling fans were also installed in the two-story classrooms at Ohlone, Duveneck and Fairmeadow elementary schools last summer, according to Holm's report, which described those rooms as the hottest in the district.
Administrators are considering the potential to install ceiling fans in more rooms. Another option is to add window film to certain south and west facing windows.
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