The heat wave this week is a hardship for students at Orchard Elementary School in Modesto.
The school's antiquated air-conditioning system is on its last legs and the temperatures are hot in some classrooms, parents and school officials said.
More weather in the triple digits is forecast for the rest of the week.
Debra Hendricks, superintendent of Sylvan Union School District, said the temperature in some classrooms was in the 80s, about 10 degrees higher than what's considered comfortable. She said students in one class were moved to a cooler classroom Monday. The district didn't say exactly how many classrooms are affected.
Hendricks said fans were brought into classrooms to try to make conditions more tolerable.. Portable air-conditioning units were considered but they require a ventilation system.
“The air-conditioning works but it is not keeping the rooms as cool as we like,” Hendricks said. “It’s not efficient.”
Celina Contreras said Tuesday her 5-year-old daughter who attends the kindergarten-through-fifth grade school said it's too warm in her classroom. "It is hot. They should get it fixed," Contreras said, expressing concern about her daughter's asthma.
Another parent said her daughter started crying when talking about the heat in her classroom.. Outdoor physical education was cancelled at Orchard.
The Sylvan school board is slated Tuesday evening to discuss a project to replace the air-conditioning and heating system at Orchard Elementary, although the project would not provide any immediate relief for the kids this week. It's not the best of circumstances for the school board. The lowest bid from contractors in June was $1 million over the $2 million budget for the new system..
The excessive heat would make it difficult for someone to suggest a rebid process to try and lower the cost. District staff members are recommending the board go forward with replacing the HVAC system. The lowest bid from Boyer Construction was just over $3 million, with the amount also including some exterior painting, roof patching and cabinet tops.
Parents concerned about the classroom conditions at Orchard Elementary are expected to attend Tuesday's board meeting.
“Our board has been planning to replace the system and has worked diligently to do that,” Hendricks said. “The board will make the decisions on how we advance.”
The superintendent said she could not guarantee a time for completing the replacement of the old HVAC system. The work would begin as soon as possible but likely will take for months, so it won't provide any immediate relief for the kids.
Hendricks said Monday a maintenance director was looking for a temporary solution that might cool off the worst classrooms.
The school board will consider a number of financing options for the multimillion dollar replacement project, such as selling $6 million of a remaining 2006 bond authorization or lease financing.
Staff members are advising the board that rebidding the air-conditioning and heating project could reduce the cost by $100,000 or it could result in even higher bids. "It is unfortunate the HVAC system at Orchard is old and needs to be replaced during a time of high construction costs," a staff report says.
The school's cooling system has been overdue for a replacement, parents said.
“It was always an issue,” said Shane Cadlolo, who was a parent volunteer at Orchard five years ago. “It definitely needed to be fixed then. I would find it hard to concentrate it was so warm in the classrooms.”