Which Columbus City Schools will start the school year without full air conditioning?

·3 min read

At least nine Columbus City Schools will start the school year on Aug. 24 without building-wide air conditioning.

Columbus Schools is updating the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in 13 of its 109 school buildings this summer using $35.6 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds created due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While work to update the HVAC systems will be completed at seven of those buildings in time for the scheduled start of classes, work at six other buildings won't be completed until the end of September, said Columbus City Schools spokeswoman Jacqueline Bryant.

In addition to the six buildings that won't be finished until the heat of late summer has waned, two other buildings — Columbus Alternative High School and Hubbard Elementary School — will have to wait until the start of the 2023-2024 school year to get building-wide air conditioning.

Columbus Alternative High School, at 2632 McGuffey Road in Linden.,will have to wait until the start of the 2023-2024 school year to get building-wide air conditioning.
Columbus Alternative High School, at 2632 McGuffey Road in Linden.,will have to wait until the start of the 2023-2024 school year to get building-wide air conditioning.

“We are just asking for patience,” ​​Alex Trevino, the district’s director of capital improvements, said of students, staff and parents. “We certainly want to get those air conditioning units turned on as soon as we can.”

Trevino said supply chain issues and labor market issues forced the pushback of HVAC upgrades in Columbus Alternative and Hubbard Elementary until next summer.

“The biggest restraint for us right now is the market,” Trevino said.

Upgrading the HVAC system in Columbus Alternative and Hubbard Elementary also will involve disturbing every space in the building, so Trevino said it’s easier to upgrade the HVAC in the summer when students aren’t in the building.

Columbus Alternative, Hubbard Elementary are among buildings that have some "cooling spaces" within their buildings, such as libraries or some classrooms and office spaces.

Mifflin Middle School is another school without building-wide air conditioning.

"It has central air in about 50% of the building, added in the 1970s," Bryant said. "We are looking at ways to improve the performance of the system."

But because a new middle school may be built on the site of Mifflin Middle School, according to the district's proposed facilities master plan, Columbus City Schools does not appear ready to invest in a new building-wide HVAC upgrade of the existing building.

HVAC upgrades an issue in contract talks with teachers

Having functioning heating and cooling systems in schools is one of the issues that the Columbus Education Association has asked for as part of their negotiations with the Columbus City Schools Board of Education on a new contract.

Last year, 20 Columbus City Schools buildings without air conditioning or HVAC in classrooms started the school year remotely due to extreme high summer temperatures and humidity.

The teachers union has raised the lack of air conditioning or poor HVAC systems in some buildings as one of the outstanding issues in contract talks not only for members' comfort but for students too, noting the heat can be a factor in the learning environment for students.

The district has responded in news releases by citing the HVAC underway on 13 buildings − while not mentioning that the work at six of the buildings won't be completed until weeks into the school year, two others not until next year, and Mifflin Middle School potentially until a new replacement building is constructed.

The seven schools getting HVAC upgrades that are scheduled to be complete by Aug 24 are:

  • Broadleigh Elementary School

  • Colerain Elementary School

  • Como Elementary School

  • Maize Elementary School

  • North Linden Elementary School

  • Westmoor Middle School

  • Woodward Park at Walden

The six schools where HVAC system upgrades aren't anticipated until September:

  • Fairwood Elementary School (late September)

  • Johnson Park Middle School (mid-September)

  • Yorktown Middle School (mid-September)

  • Valleyview Elementary School (mid-September)

  • West Broad Elementary School (mid-September)

  • Westgate Elementary School (mid -September)

Those six schools will continue to run on existing HVAC systems until construction is complete, with some spaces in those buildings having air conditioning in some spaces such as the library and special needs classrooms.

Facility crews will finish working on those schools during the evening and weekends once the new school year begins, Trevino said.

@megankhenry

mhenry@dispatch.com

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: These Columbus City Schools will start year without air conditioning