With classes out for the summer, many area schools are taking advantage of the absence of students to renovate spaces, construct new buildings and handle miscellaneous housekeeping projects.
This summer, however, Komarek School will not be tackling one major planned summer projects.
At the school’s board of education meeting in May, the board members decided unanimously to halt plans on a project that to add air conditioning to the gymnasium, board room and district offices.
The school district, which added air conditioning in its auditorium last summer, decided not to move forward with plans to make more spaces cooler after finding the project too expensive at this time.
The school’s district architectural firm, Oak Brook-based FGM Architects, estimated that the project would cost about $350,000. However, all five of the project’s proposals greatly exceeded the estimated budget, with the highest bid coming in around $800,000 and the lowest bid just shy of $650,000.
Outgoing Komarek Superintendent Neil Pellicci said the district had not contemplated the cost of the project to be so high.
“We did all the planning and drawings for the project and then went out to bid,” Pellicci said. “In the past, [FGM Architects] estimated high, so we could budget for it. We went into this thinking $350,000 would be our top end [and] the board and I felt that [the bids] were too expensive and would have dramatically impacted the budget.”
Komarek looked to install a new combination air conditioning and heating system. While the proposed system would have been constructed to work in conjunction with the school’s existing boilers, it was something Pellicci says is not necessary since the school can do without a new heating system.
While the gym currently does not have air conditioning, the district offices and boardroom have a system that is roughly 30 years old. Additionally, there is only one classroom in the entire school that has air conditioning, something that was only made possible from the donation of a parent a few years ago.
And, said Pellicci, adding air conditioning to the entire school is not something that’s on the drawing board right now.
“We had a [building] survey done several years back and one of the biggest problems we have is with our capacity for electrical service,” he said. “And, that’s what really kind of killed this project.”
Pellicci says the school would have to undergo an entire renovation of electrical capacity systems, a project FGM Architects at one point estimated could run the school nearly $750,000. Such a cost would not even factor in air-conditioning installation.
“We have air handlers in every classroom that take the heat from the boilers and converts it and kicks it out into the classrooms,” he said. “You can convert those to have both heat and air, but it’s somewhat expensive.
“Our biggest problem is the capacity for the electricity to run a big air conditioning system, [and] when that was figured into this current project, it pretty much doubled the cost.”
Pellicci believes in order for the district to decide if it should take on such an expensive task, it would need to seriously evaluate how often the air conditioning would really be used. This school year, Pellicci said the air conditioning in the auditorium was only used twice.
“You’re investing a lot of money into something that is used sparingly,” he said.
Despite a lack of air conditioning on hot summer days, Pellicci says the decision has not affected the learning environment either during the school year or with summer school programs.
“We have summer classes in the library and we have certain rooms that have had air conditioning [temporarily] added,” he said.
He added that most summer classes are held in the morning when the temperatures in the building are cooler. If necessary, classes are moved to the air-conditioned auditorium or boardroom.
As of now, the district has no timeline for the gymnasium, district office and boardroom air-conditioning project.