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Which schools get air conditioning? It depends on building age, other factors

September 5, 2018

Which schools get air conditioning? It depends on building age, other factors

COLUMBUS, Ohio – To prevent students from sweltering in classrooms, numerous officials across the state -- including several in Northeast Ohio -- canceled school Wednesday for the second consecutive day.

Ohio schools are a patchwork of different heating and cooling systems – and some lack air conditioning in all or part of the buildings.

Whether a building has air conditioning or not comes down to its age or whether it has been renovated.

Since 1997, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission has been responsible for building and renovating the state’s public K-12 classroom buildings, said commission spokesman Rick Savors.

“We’ve opened slightly over 1,200 new or renovated buildings,” Savors said. All have air conditioning.

However, school districts are not required to work with the commission and may choose to repair and replace their buildings on their own dime.

And many schools are waiting to receive assistance from the commission.

The commission doesn’t track the number of schools that do not have air conditioning, Savors said.  

In the Cuyahoga Falls City School District, which canceled classes Wednesday, only one of six elementary schools has air conditioning. One of its two middle schools is partially air conditioned. And one part of the high school has A/C. Superintendent Todd Nichols said the district has financial challenges that prevent it from undertaking renovations on its own.

The district is working on a master plan for its buildings with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. That master plan will decide whether buildings need to be renovated or torn down and replaced. But in the end, all the schools will have air conditioning.

The district looked at window units for some buildings.

“In our current situation, buildings are just older,” Nichols said. “They’re older buildings. And they don’t currently have the electrical capacity to have window units.”

Since only one school in the district has air conditioning for the entire building, all schools were closed. Nichols said that was the least disruptive to food service, transportation and other district-wide programs.

State Rep. Niraj Antani, a Miamisburg Republican, wrote a letter to Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria on Tuesday, after his local schools closed due to the heat. He is requesting a cost estimate to air condition every school building in the state.

Even “on hot days that do not cause a school closure, the heat is creating a hostile environment to teaching and learning,” he wrote. “Every school in Ohio should be air conditioned.”

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