School district officials said that repairs to a cooling system compressor served to lower the temperatures in classrooms at Orchard Elementary School in Modesto.
In addition, a subcommittee created by the Sylvan Union School District board Tuesday came up with additional ways to keep the classroom temperatures down if needed. Those measures include extra fans, purchase of a backup compressor, renting a mobile chiller and working on the “air handlers” in the seven rooms where temperatures were in the mid-80s early last week.
The 16-member subcommittee, which held a meeting Thursday, was comprised of school board members George Rawe and Cyndi Lindsey as well as architects, air-conditioning mechanics and district staff members.
In the middle of a heat wave last week, the Sylvan school board heard complaints from parents about extremely warm classrooms at the kindergarten-through-fifth grade school near Oakdale Road and Merle Avenue. Parents said their children were in tears and came home with shirts soaked in sweat.
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The district has a plan for replacing the school’s 25-year-old heating and air-conditioning system, which has undergone numerous repairs over the years. But the replacement project won’t begin for another month and will take at least nine months to complete.
In a letter to families Thursday, Principal Travis Manley acknowledged that seven of the 24 classrooms at Orchard Elementary were not meeting the district’s standards for cooling. A few classrooms were in the mid-80s on extremely hot days, the letter said, while the majority of classrooms were between 75 and 80 degrees.
The problem was caused by a malfunctioning compressor that was brand new, Manley wrote.
The school district said repairs to the compressor Wednesday brought the temperatures within the cooling standards. According to a statement Friday, the classrooms at Orchard Elementary averaged 74 to 76 degrees, though two rooms had reached 78 to 79 degrees in the afternoon.
The school can try some of the options developed by the subcommittee if classrooms become uncomfortable again. Modesto is expected to see warm weather in the mid-90s this week, according to the National Weather Service.
Sylvan Union received bids from contractors in June that far exceeded the $2 million budget for replacing Orchard’s HVAC units. The school board will talk with a financial adviser about options for financing the additional $1.3 million in construction and replacement costs.