Schools face a/c challenges

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Temperatures are soaring, air conditioners are running over time and some school faculties and students are suffering.

Webster Parish Superintendent of Schools Johnny Rowland said repairing and replacing A/C units is top on his Maintenance Department’s list.

“Our schools are very much aware of the heat and what it can do to our children,” Rowland said. “All of them have made accommodations for keeping kids inside, whatever that might look like in every school.”

Rowland said there are no schools that are completely void of air conditioning at this time.

“We have had in a couple of locations some segments within the schools where we had air conditioner problems,” he said. “We recently had one at Doyline in our junior high wing, but as of Tuesday night, the parts had come in and the technicians worked on it, and now that wing is running at 100 percent capacity.”

Rowland said he cannot say that every classroom in the parish is as comfortable as he would like.

“We’re keeping close tabs on that,” he said. “If a unit needs to be replaced, then we would take it to the board and try to make accommodations.”

The superintendent said the school board is fortunate that every school district except one has separate maintenance funds.

“We can use each district’s maintenance fund to help with things just like this,” he said. “In Shongaloo, we still have a healthy balance in their building fund account from years ago that they are able to use.”

Rowland said Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) is requiring a “wet bulb” for sports activities at schools.

By definition, wet-bulb temperature is the lowest temperature a portion of air can acquire by evaporative cooling only. When air is at its maximum (100 percent) humidity, the wet-bulb temperature is equal to the normal air temperature (dry-bulb temperature). As the humidity decreases, the wet-bulb temperature becomes lower than the normal air temperature.

“Wet bulb readings are what determines whether sports or practices can be conducted outside and the durations and equipment used,” he said. “Also, the number of water breaks required.

“I know some of the teachers at our schools are using some variation of that to determine what the actual ‘wet bulb’ type index is and if kids should go outside at all,” Rowland continued.

Rowland said the schools are ensuring there is drinking water available.

School buses are another matter of concern.

“The bus ride home is rather warm, but all windows are down, and water is available. Luckily we don’t have long routes this year,” he said, adding that at the beginning of the school year – when temperatures were around 105 degrees – Jeff Franklin, supervisor of Transportation and Maintenance drove a route to see if the heat was unmanageable or dangerous.