Still no A/C for schools

Kekaha School Principal Marilyn Asahi told The Garden Island in November that she was “cautiously optimistic” that air conditioning units would be installed in her school’s classrooms by the end of January.

As of Feb. 15, no units have been installed.

Asahi said she could not comment for this story, but state Department of Education Kauai Complex Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki said the bid for the project went out and the “award and partial notice to proceed is being processed.”

Kekaha Elementary is the only Kauai school on the Department of Education’s priority list in the state’s Heat Abatement project to cool down Hawaii classrooms, ranking 31 out of 33 in the state.

Other schools on the Garden Isle, such as Waimea Canyon Middle, Waimea High and Intermediate, Kekaha Intermediate, and Kapaa Elementary, High and Intermediate are nearing the award stage, but that doesn’t mean installation is coming anytime soon.

As for other schools on the island looking for A/C units, their bids have not been approved yet.

“No new A/C projects have opened for bids for Kauai schools recently,” said Derek Inoshita, HIDOE spokesperson.

Gov. David Ige said during his 2016 State of the State Address that the state would provide 1,000 classrooms with A/C units.

In an Oct. 18 Heat Abatement Status update, only 26 classrooms across the state had installed A/C units from this project while another 432 units were under construction or still in the bidding process, according to the HIDOE.

In the latest update on Feb. 14, 926 classrooms are in the bidding or construction process and 209 classrooms have air-conditioning units installed.

Kauai schools haven’t received any units from the state since the last TGI report on Nov. 7, and even though Kekaha Elementary is one of the state’s “top priority” schools, the campus hasn’t received any units as part of Ige’s project.

Kekaha Elementary did, however, receive four portable units, enough for four classrooms, dating back to the 2015-16 school year.

Out of 650 classrooms on the Garden Isle in the Waimea, Kauai and Kapaa districts, just 105 — or 16 percent — of classrooms have A/C.

Ige’s “cooling-down classrooms” project has experienced delays due to the high number of bids, budgetary concerns and infrastructure of some schools, as the majority of Hawaii schools are over 50 years old, according to HIDOE’s Heat Abatement Status update.

While A/C units aren’t being installed, the state is still making efforts to cool down classrooms in other ways.

Arakaki said that some proposals involved repainting a lighter finish on the dark brown wainscot, the paneling applied to classroom walls.

“This is to reduce heat on the walls that can migrate to the classrooms,” Arakaki said.

There are also proposals to add Plexiglas panels to the some of the jalousie windows so the windows can be opened to allow natural lighting and air; irrigating the areas around the buildings to keep the lawns green, which will also help keep the area cooler; planting additional trees to provide more shade to the buildings; and adding shade structures over the three playground equipment areas, according to Arakaki.

However, construction funding has not been appropriated for any of these projects.

One project that does have a possibility of happening in coming weeks is the replacement of fluorescent tubes with LED.

“Kekaha Elementary is one of 29 DOE schools included in the first round of LED lamp retrofit projects. They have completed 26 of the other schools involved in that project so they’re close to wrapping things up,” Arakaki said.

Arakaki said the second LED lamp retrofit project will focus exclusively on the other 14 Kauai schools, with an anticipated start date of March 13.

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