Students have been absent from the hallways and classrooms of Lawrence schools this week while on spring break, but the buildings have been anything but quiet.
The school district has been busy taking care of repairs and upgrades that Tom Bracciano, the school district's director of operations and facility planning, said couldn't wait until summer.
"We don't have much of a summer left anymore," he said. "It gets shorter and shorter. We're squeezing them in when we can because we can't just wait until summer anymore."
The primary goal this week has been to finish installing air conditioning in gymnasiums at Sunset Hill, Hillcrest and East Heights elementary schools. Air conditioning also is being installed in the west gym at Lawrence High School. The projects will cost about $250,000.
Preparations began two weeks ago when workers began insulating air ducts and getting the air-conditioning units ready to be placed on the schools' roofs. Installation was done this week while students and most faculty were gone.
"The big part of doing it is finding out who's going to be where and when, so we can get these things done and not disrupt the ambiance of the classroom too much," Bracciano said.
He said air conditioning was the top priority because it made classrooms more comfortable for students and improved their ability to learn. That holds true especially in April and May, as well as in the early fall during the hottest months of the school year, he said.
Hillcrest principal Tammy Becker said air conditioning was a much-needed upgrade. The Hillcrest gym doubles as a cafeteria, so the almost 400 students at the school use the gym at some point every day.
"We have tried to run big fans in there in the last few years, but that doesn't really work to move the warm air around," she said. "What it's going to do is allow all of our facility to have air conditioning, so students won't be moving from an air-conditioned room to a place that's not air-conditioned. It'll allow them to be in a comfortable setting throughout the day."
This is just the latest step in a continuing renovation process at city schools. Bracciano said he would present to the school board Monday night the next wave of necessary repairs. That round would cost about $1.25 million.
Included on Bracciano's list of summer repair recommendations are:
- $900,000 to replace windows at Lawrence High, Central Junior High, and Cordley and Hillcrest schools.
- $350,000 to do masonry repairs at LHS, Central and Cordley, as well as Pinckney School.
Bracciano said he also hoped to conclude the district's air-conditioning projects by upgrading the main gym at LHS and air conditioning both gyms at Central.