Many classrooms still lack air conditioning

LIHUE — Public schools across Kauai have been back in class for nearly a month, but some students are still sweating it out due to high temperatures and a lack of air conditioners in their classrooms.

State Department of Education spokeswoman Lindsay Chambers said Friday she believes the department is getting close to hitting the 1,000-classroom mark across the state as part of Gov. David Ige’s Cooling Down Classrooms project announced in 2016.

The project is already past its deadline due to multiple reasons, including high construction costs and old infrastructure. On the DOE’s website, as of Aug. 1, the department has installed 855 air conditioners in schools across the state.

“Our heat-abatement priority list was generated based on a study of classroom temperatures statewide. The hottest classrooms (and) schools are at the top of the list,” Chambers said.

Various Kauai schools (Waimea Canyon Middle, Waimea High and Kekaha) have received 25 portable/permanent classroom air conditioners, Chambers said, while Kapaa Elementary and Kapaa High were awarded 23 portable units. A breakdown of how many units were installed in each school was not made available by the DOE.

The Heat Abatement Status document, which was updated every two to three weeks for nearly a year, hasn’t been updated since June 13.

No public school principal on Kauai or local DOE official responded to TGI’s requests for comment.

Back in February, out of 650 Garden Isle classrooms in the Waimea, Kauai and Kapaa districts, just 105 — or 16 percent — had air conditioning.

According to the new data received on Friday, there are still 497 classrooms that don’t have air conditioning.

When asked if the DOE plans to continue adding air conditioner units in classrooms after the department hits its goal of 1,000 classrooms, Chambers said, “The department’s heat-abatement efforts continue to move forward with more projects going out to bid and requests for funding at schools that are not on the list.”

Kekaha is the only school on Kauai that was listed as a priority school for the DOE, ranking 31st out of 33 in the state. In the latest updated version of the DOE’s Heat Abatement Status on June 13, Kekaha had four classrooms with air conditioning out of 21 total classrooms, or 19 percent.

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