Deborah Freeman, who’s granddaughter attends the school, told school board members that Curry Middle School students are suffering temperatures as high as 97 degrees in the classrooms and gym.
“It is unacceptable,” she said.
Freeman said the conditions pose a serious health hazard to students and teachers. She told the board members they have an obligation as elected officials and as human beings to improve the conditions for the children.
“Are you willing to be responsible for every one of these kids if they lose their lives,” she said. “God is going to hold you accountable for it.”
Freeman said the board could install six air conditioning units in Curry Middle School for around $24,000 to $28,000. She also provided the phone number of the contractor who gave her that estimate.
Assistant Superintendent Alan Trotter told the school board replacing the school’s air conditioning units would be much more expensive due to new building codes. He said the Alabama Building Commission requires high ventilation and fresh air standards. If the board approved the construction of a system that does not meet the commission’s criteria, the board could face a large fine, he said.
“You can buy air conditioning units for a lot less, but you can’t use them,” he said.
Trotter said the last two bids the board received for replacing air conditioning units were $240,000 and $173,000.
He also said the county school system has more than 900 air conditioning units, 40 of which currently need repairs. He said the county schools’ HVAC crew struggles to keep on top of their workload, despite its diligence.
Trotter said everyone involved wants all the schools to have proper air conditioning, but the board can not presently afford the repairs.
“I assure you this board of education cares,” he said. “They would like nothing better that to say, ‘Let’s get air conditioning units in this school and all the schools that need them.’”
Trotter said the school system was recently approved for a federal grant of $200,000 to install energy-saving thermostats in several schools. He hopes the board will have excess funds from the grant to put toward Curry Middle School’s air conditioning system, he said.
In other business, the board approved:
•The County School System’s Head Start report that covered Oct. 1 to June 30. Head Start director Rosemary Hataway said the program maintained its 257 students throughout the period and had 225 children on a waiting list.
•Personnel and financial reports as well as the system’s bank reconciliation.
•Funding for the Northwest Alabama Mental Center’s START program in Townley.