Lyons Township High School is poised to install air conditioning in classrooms and other spaces at both campuses next year, though the extent of the project won’t be known until the district goes out to bid and determines how much can be added in one summer.
The District 204 school board is anticipating replacing two rooftop air-conditioning units on the North Campus fieldhouse as well as adding air conditioning to as many as 62 classrooms at South Campus.
It is projected to cost approximately $4 million to replace the rooftop units on the and completely air condition the B wing of South Campus. That would add air conditioning to 42 more classrooms.
The district is also considering adding air conditioning to the C wing at South Campus, either spending about $400,000 to air condition 10 classrooms there or about $1 million to completely air condition the wing.
The district plans to use a $1 million state grant, secured with the help of Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) to help pay for the new air conditioning.
District officials would like to add as much air conditioning as possible next summer to take advantage of economies of scale, but are concerned about how much work they can get done in one summer.
“We want to maximize that, but we also don’t want to put ourselves in a situation where we can’t complete the work in time for the school year,” said LTHS District 204 Superintendent Brian Waterman. “We’re trying to thread the needle, so to speak.”
If the entire C wing is air conditioned that would total 20 classrooms and bring the total of additional classrooms to be air conditioned to 62. Last summer, 23 classrooms in the B wing were outfitted with univents so all that it is needed to air condition them is to install a cooling tower, often called a chiller, for the B wing.
The hot weather at the start of the school year in August, which persisted into much of September, has added urgency to the desire to add as much air conditioning to LTHS as possible. Less than one third of the classrooms at the freshman-sophomore South Campus are air conditioned.
The first weeks of school, with hot temperatures and high humidity, were especially miserable at LTHS.
At the Sept. 23 school board meeting Ricardo Martinez, who has run unsuccessfully for the LTHS school board in the last two elections, called upon the school board to make a firm commitment to fully air condition the school in the next five years.
“Hot classrooms limit the aptitude of our students,” Martinez told the school board during the public comment portion of the school board meeting. “Data shows that each one degree Fahrenheit increase in school temperature reduces the amount learned in that year by 1 percent.”
Martinez said that in the hottest months, many LTHS classrooms register temperatures in the 90s or even 100.
“It’s a disadvantage for our students and our teachers,” Martinez said.
Martinez said LTHS has ample reserves, more than $40 million, to pay for air conditioning.
“Kids are falling over in class and we’re not broke,” Martinez said. “We can’t continue to kick the can down the road. We need healthy and high performing students. We actually can’t afford not to do this.”