Santa Paula Times

School board work focuses on cooling issue

October 10, 2014
Santa Paula News

How to cool down classrooms on extra-hot days filled most of a special workshop of the Santa Paula Unified School District board Monday.

Yuri Calderon of the consulting firm Caldwell, Flores and Winters presented the board with costs and alternatives to putting in air conditioning in classrooms. He said that to air condition all of the schools would carry a tab of almost $15 million dollars. Calderon said that alternative cooling ideas such as ceiling fans and window coverings or new windows would probably cost about $5 million. The price tag for each school depends on the work necessary to complete the work.

Assistant Superintendent Donna Rose said they installed three ceiling fans at Barbara Webster School and one at Santa Paula High School as an experiment. She said they found that the hotter it gets the less effective they are in cooling the rooms down. She noted that teachers had mixed reactions to the fans.

Calderon also said there should a way to open and close classroom windows with some type of mechanical device. SPUSD Superintendent Alfonso Gamino suggested that there be cooling centers at each of the schools for the real hot days, especially since there aren’t usually more than four or five of those days a year.

The district does have a board policy called, “Guidelines for Preventing Heat Stress.” It starts out, “To counteract heat stress, all district personnel must pay attention to weather conditions and use common sense and good judgment for modifying activities and/or school days.”

The document even provides a chart for considering modifications to activities or schedules. It state that 82 degrees or less is considered normal for good learning conditions. If the temperature reaches above 82 and up to 95 degrees or above the plan calls for modifying physical activity and even schedule change.

The district is looking at putting a $36 million dollar bond issue on the ballot in 2016. Board member Michelle Kolbeck said they wouldn’t be able to get a bond passed with air conditioning being the main thing. She also said they should consider canceling sports on super hot days when they send students home early because of the heat.

Board President Diana Ponce-Gomez commented that air conditioning is not the way they should go. “We need to keep looking at alternatives,” she added. “We owe it to everybody to keep looking.” Rose told the board that they could start now on alternative ideas before the bond is on the ballot.

The direction given to staff and the consultant was to develop a plan without air conditioning. Kolbeck also said they need to tell the grant writers that they need matching funds for the work.

The district already has a demonstration project in the works at Glen City School that includes 10 new classrooms. Calderon said they’re meeting with the architect on the 15th of this month, but work won’t begin until sometime in early spring.

In another matter the board discussed the possible renovation and rehabilitation of locker rooms at Santa Paula High School. Calderon told the board that the cost of redoing the boys and girls locker rooms is about $1 million dollars. Kolbeck said they need alternatives and costs before anything happens.

Kolbeck also raised the parking issue. “We can’t pretend that when the new buildings open that everything will be solved,” she said. “We need to continue to work with the city.” She added that there needs to be a traffic study. Superintendent Gamino was directed to meet with City Manager Jaime Fontes to discuss the issue.