Pinckney School is still without air conditioning, but it isn't without helpful parents and friends.
Students always talk about going back to school in the fall, but more often -- at least in this part of the country -- the beginning of the school year coincides with the end of a long, hot Kansas summer.
Unfortunately, going back to school still means going back to unair-conditioned classrooms for some Lawrence children and teachers. Fortunately for students and teachers at Pinckney School, there is a parent-teacher organization and some helpful residents trying to make classrooms a little more comfortable.
With the help of their school-business partner, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, the Pinckney PTO placed ads last week asking for local residents to loan 110-volt air conditioners to the school for use in August and September. As of Monday morning eight air conditioners had been volunteered, according to a PTO officer.
Gary Freeman, Pinckney principal, reported that two air conditioners were not usable but four already had been installed in the rooms that need them the most. Additional air conditioners will be put to use in classrooms if they are loaned. Freeman acknowledged that 110-volt air conditioners probably won't really keep the rooms cool, but "it's better than nothing at all."
The Lawrence school board made a commitment in 1992 to add air conditioning to all remaining district schools. Since that time, air conditioning has been completed at Lawrence High School, Central Junior High and at Riverside, Grant, Sunset Hill, East Heights, Hillcrest, Centennial and Cordley elementary schools. That work leaves only West Junior High and Pinckney School without air conditioning.
In preparation for the installation of air-conditioning systems next year, crews worked this summer to remove asbestos at both schools and install new wiring at Pinckney. The work, however, could not be completed in time to get new heating and air-conditioning systems in place before students returned to school. Freeman said window air conditioners that had been removed from LHS couldn't be utilized because they required 220-volt outlets that weren't available at Pinckney.
The situation certainly isn't ideal. It's unreasonable to expect children or teachers to keep their minds on lessons when they are hot and uncomfortable. The district should have moved ahead sooner on air conditioning so all the work could have been completed by now. West Junior High and Pinckney are operating on heat schedules that will result in shorter school days and less time for learning until the weather cools. They are coping, but students and staff at both schools undoubtedly will be more than ready for new air-conditioning systems next fall.
In the meantime, however, it's great to see the parent-teacher group, a business partner and local residents pitching in to help Pinckney School beat the heat. It's not their responsibility, and that should make the school appreciate their efforts even more.