A year ago I editorialized a number of times about the ridiculous lack of quality air in far too many of our public school classrooms. The heat was stultifying and inhumane. Activists at the school level- parents, students, administrators, teachers, neighbors, alumni- all stepped up to let our local legislature know that this 30+ year old practice had to be dealt with, and dealt with now.
Well, the State has stepped up, though the first foray into getting the cooling bids saw ridiculous cost estimates and therefore, believe it or not, more delays. But now, more reasonable bids are coming in from various contractors as the bid process was revamped and re-opened, and economy of scale models are being used to help bring costs more in line with initial expectations. Better late than never. School officials and the State originally thought they could get the costs to come in at about $40,000 per hotbox classroom, but early bids came in at over double that amount, and one bid came in for a single classroom at $361,000. Gee, that one must have included an ice skating rink and smoothie maker, too.
While we might not see many, if any, of these retrofits done in time for the fall and perhaps we won't come close to getting the originally planned 1,000 rooms cooled by year end, it does appear that some movement is occurring and remedies are in store after far too many years of neglect. School starts soon, and so will the 100+ degree days in some schoolrooms. Portable AC units, roof coatings and ceiling fans have already found their way to some of the neediest schools in the meantime. We will be watching closely and optimistically as the upgrading of air takes place in the warm months ahead. Think about it.