CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Problems with air conditioning systems in Kanawha County Schools are continuing, but school officials say they don’t regret starting the school year earlier than in years past.
Parents had initially voiced concerns with the announcement of an early August start date partly because they feared it would submit students to hotter temperatures if the air conditioning in their schools failed — a problem the district has faced for years.
For some parents, those fears have become a reality.
“It’s miserable. If the temperatures continue to climb in these schools, students won’t be able to concentrate or, worse, it will make them sick,” said Amy Carpenter, a parent of students at Sissonville High and Middle schools, both of which have faced issues with air conditioning.
“We’re all helpless. I know [school staff] have complained to the board several times, but nothing has been done. They want to open the windows to let air in, but they’re not allowed because of safety reasons.
“We’re almost into a month of school. What’s the reason it hasn’t been fixed? We’ve known all this time when school was going to start,” Carpenter said. “It just needs to be fixed. Just fix it, period.”
Tracy Mains, a Kanawha City Elementary School parent, called the school “a total breeding ground for bacteria,” saying the temperatures in some classrooms have been higher than 80 degrees.
“I couldn’t really care less when they’re in school as long as the A/C is equipped to deal with the heat and the humidity,” Mains said. “Students’ glasses are fogging up from the heat.”
But school board member Becky Jordon says the cooling problems have little to do with the early start date.
“You can’t predict the weather anymore. It was in the 70s the first week of school. We’re going to continue to have this early start,” Jordon said. “There are so many buildings … it’s never 100 percent perfect. I own rental property and have everything maintained, but I can’t predict what’s going to happen. You can service it how you’re supposed to, but things happen.”
Terry Hollandsworth, maintenance director for Kanawha County Schools, and his team of 10 workers have responded to several complaints about HVAC systems since school has started, and are continuing to make repairs.
While more than $20 million has been approved for HVAC upgrades and other facility repairs in recent years, Hollandsworth said more funding is still needed to get all of the system’s units replaced.
Units at South Charleston High School, for example, are nearly 25 years old, Hollandsworth said.
Kanawha County Schools maintenance workers have responded to complaints at South Charleston High, Andrew Jackson Middle School, Riverside High School and others, Hollandsworth said.
“The early start date hasn’t affected anything,” Hollandsworth said. “The units in some of the schools are very old. We’re focused on getting these schools up and running and we’re going to continue to chase them down.”
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