While the mercury hovered at about 100 degrees July 2, the Newton Board of Education met for a special meeting to formulate a plan to have fully functioning air conditioning at Newton High School when school starts in August.
What they settled on was spending nearly $64,000 to install temporary a unit that will be removed in October when the school anticipates switching from air conditioning
"We believe the best option is to put temporary air conditioning in," said Deb Hamm, superintendent of schools. " ... We are at the point that we need to make a decision, otherwise we will not have air conditioning for the start of school, and that is simply unacceptable,"
The temporary unit will be in place by July 13. It will be removed in October. A portion of the expense of the temporary unit will be covered by an insurance plan. The board approved a design and bid process for a new air conditioner system for a long-term solution.
"We will be looking at something that will not impact future upgrades," Hamm said. "This is for the continued use of the building for the next 30 to 40 years."
It is unknown what the cost of a permanent fix will be.
On May 16, before the end of the most recent academic semester, the compressor on the main chiller of the air conditioning unit at Newton High School failed, the result of normal wear and tear according to Ron Henrich, interim facilities director for USD 373.
Some portions of the high school (namely the newer sections) continue to have air conditioning, but a majority of the high school — about 80 percent — was serviced by the unit with the failed compressor.
Repair of the current unit, in essence, would have been a temporary fix — the main chiller unit, which services 80 percent of the high school, runs on a refrigerant (R22) that will stop being manufactured in 2020. In addition, it was learned July 2 that part of the cowling on the unit was bordering on unrepairable if damaged during transport to a repair facility.
To keep the temperature down at the high school, those using the facilities are being encouraged to circulate outside air when it’s cool enough. Hamm said the district anticipates being able to fully cool the building July 13.
The air conditioning system, original to the building, stalled previously in 1995. When the new compressor was installed at that time, it came with a projected lifespan of 20 years. Having that information, district administration knew repair work may be imminent and began discussing options in 2013, according to USD 373 superintendent Deb Hamm
The first day of school is Aug. 16.