Archive for Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Heat sends students on classroom sojourn

Equipment breakdowns for many to relocate

August 30, 2000

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When the classrooms get hot, the students get moving.

In Lawrence and across the area, educators are doing what they can to keep classes going despite record-breaking heat -- even if it means relocating classes.

Even in Lawrence, where all classrooms are air-conditioned, equipment failures and high heat are putting pressure on classes.

In Eudora, middle school students are taking refuge from open-air classrooms in the air-conditioned high school.

By 10 a.m. Tuesday, the temperature was already a sizzling 99 degrees in an east-side, second-floor classroom at the middle school, said Principal Dale Sample. So middle school students were completing the last half of their school days at the high school.

"I think it's tolerable in the morning but it gets pretty bad in the afternoon," Sample said, describing conditions at his school.

Seventh-grade students have been transported to the high school about 11:45 a.m. each day. Eighth-graders are sent over about 12:45 p.m.

Offices at the middle school have window air conditioners, but "they don't do much good" in this heat, Sample said. A window air conditioner was installed last year in the middle school's science lab annex.

"It was 92 degrees in there -- and that's with the air conditioner running full blast," Sample said.

Shortly before the end of the school day, the students are transported back to the middle school, Sample said.

Sending middle school students to the high school hasn't caused any problems, high school Principal Marty Kobza said.

"Middle school students will continue to use the high school as long as necessary," Sample said.

"We're on a day-by-day basis," he said.

Even in air-conditioned Lawrence classrooms, things aren't going so well.

Air-conditioning units serving South Junior High School and Broken Arrow School have been stretched to the breaking point, said Tom Bracciano, director of facilities and operations.

Pupils in upstairs classrooms at Cordley School were moved to another part of the building because air conditioners couldn't compete with triple-digit temperatures. And a window air conditioner gave out at Wakarusa Valley School.

Bracciano said the air-conditioning systems at South and Broken Arrow shut down Monday night. It was the second time the systems had failed since classes started Aug. 18.

District staff managed to restart the system by Tuesday morning. A decision was made to divert cool air away from South's gym to limit drain on the equipment.

"It had shut off because of the load," Bracciano said. "The equipment isn't designed to run at 110 degrees for days."

District staff had reported to the school board that the system providing cool air to nearly 900 students at the side-by-side schools might need to be replaced.

Board President Austin Turney said recently he preferred to decide how to resolve overcrowding issues at the district's four junior high schools before investing an estimated $500,000 to upgrade the air-conditioning system.

Bracciano said he scans weather forecasts each morning and evening for news that the heat wave might draw to a close.

"I'm beginning to root for meteorologists," he joked.

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