BRICK – Ten of the 12 township schools do not have air conditioning, and it would cost some $50 million to have all the systems installed, said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Farrell during the recent Board of Education meeting.
Only Brick Township High School and Brick Memorial High School have fresh air intake air conditioning that could be utilized during the public health crisis, he said.
“You cannot use wall units during the pandemic,” Dr. Farrell said. “It’s not fresh air intake. All the other buildings do not have the fresh air intake and ventilation systems.”
The superintendent said the administration wants to start looking at a plan to install air conditioning ventilators over the next few years, prioritizing middle schools with large populations and schools with second floors where the heat rises.
The district is getting cost estimates, which range from $5 to $7 million per building, he said. To put this cost in perspective, he said that $5 to $7 million has been the total annual capital improvements budget over the past few years for infrastructure repairs.
“So we are looking at a long-term plan…where we will start designating schools over the next few years that we can utilize some of this influx of federal money and as we start budgeting for capital improvement,” Farrell said.
It is likely to begin next summer, but installing the systems in multiple schools at one time is cost prohibitive, he added.
During public comment, former Board of Education member and current Board candidate Walter Campbell said the project should be expedited because of health risks.
“Whether it’s teachers or students…we’ve got to have a combination of heating and air conditioning,” he said. “This isn’t something we kick halfway down the road.”
Campbell said that a lot of lives are being affected by the lack of proper ventilation.
“Find the money – this is serious,” he said to the Board members.
“You’re new,” Campbell said to Dr. Farrell. “You inherited this problem.”
As unit ventilators fall into disrepair, they are being replaced with air conditioning over time, Dr. Farrell said.
“If we do all the unit ventilators over, with the air conditioning, you’re talking about $50 million and you’re talking about doing the installation and construction in probably a summer for 10 schools, at best,” he said.
Dr. Farrell said the school administration would love to see air conditioning installed across the board, but they don’t foresee it happening quickly. “It is part of our plan to improve infrastructure,” he said.
That’s true, said School Business Administrator James Edwards.
“We have a plan in place,” he said. “Let us move forward with the American Rescue Funds and the Cares Act money that we have, that we plan on putting towards ventilation.”
Edwards said once the cost proposals are returned, the district could proceed with recommendations on which areas of all the schools would be in the queue for air conditioning.
The next Board of Education meeting will be held on Thursday, September 30 at 7 p.m. at the Professional Development Center at the Veterans Complex.