Four-year-olds shouldn’t have to endure 90-degree classroom temperatures, Oberlin school board members said Tuesday in a unanimous vote.
Eastwood Elementary will get $80,000 in new air conditioning units this summer from JD Indoor Comfort. They should be ready by the time kids return to the PK-2 building Aug. 23.
Heat pump units will cool a minimum of 13 rooms, but district superintendent David Hall said he believes the devices will provide relief to all 15 Eastwood rooms.
Temperatures inside Eastwood have been a concern for years. Previous estimates for air conditioning were around $250,000, according to board member Ken Stanley.
The new units, at a much lower price, won’t require any electrical upgrades, he said.
Some residents questioned why the board would invest $80,000 in a building that could be demolished or closed in the near future as Oberlin wrestles with falling enrollment and aging schools.
The district in recent years has floated ideas for construction and renovations, twice opting to place issues on the ballot for new schools, only to pull them off before voters could weigh in.
Craig Brandt, parent of three and a former Oberlin teacher, remembered working 15 years without air conditioning. He called it “a travesty” and said poor working conditions were among the factors that drove him out of education and into nursing.
Administrators have air conditioning at the district’s central office, he pointed out. Yet Brandt said as a community member, he was unsure how laying out $80,000 for improvements to an old school made financial sense.
Board member Barry Richard said that, assuming a levy goes on the November ballot and passes, the timeline to have a new school is three to five years.
He is bothered that Eastwood kids and teachers have endured high heat for so long. “If you had a business, you would not subject employees (to that heat). You’d have a hard time keeping people,” he said.
Air conditioning units would increase the market value of the school, Richard argued. And according to Hall, they can be moved to another building if the at the East College Street school is closed.
After “seven or eight” years of debating cooling solutions at Eastwood, “we’ve waited long enough. (Hall has) done the research and it’s time to pull the trigger,” Richard said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.