JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Text messages between Duval County school district leaders reveal there were broken air conditioning units at many public schools during the last two weeks of school, when temperatures were setting record highs.
“RV Daniel…no AC…JE Ford…no AC…Jackson…no AC for 16 classrooms and gym…,” one text message read.
The texts were sent from the district's chief of administration to district leaders.
“Lakeshore – both chillers down – entire school down…,” read another text. “AC was reported down at Westview K8 – Maintenance has it running now…going to take some time for it to catch up with the warm building.”
The map above shows that the AC problems weren’t at just one school level or in one part of town, but at elementary, middle and high schools throughout the county.
The school district told News4Jax in an email, “AC issues, like any major maintenance issue, can absolutely disrupt learning. Imagine taking your state-required standardized tests in an overheated classroom.”
The AC problems come as the Duval County School Board is asking for a half-cent sales tax referendum to pay for the county’s aging schools.
The district said part of the nearly $2 billion plan includes eliminating over $1 billion of backlogged maintenance because of very old, deteriorating school buildings, which AC repairs fall into this category.
According to research from Penn State University, the temperature inside a classroom does impact students and the ideal temperature is anywhere between 68 degree and 74 degrees.
Students and their family members agree that hot classrooms can have a negative effect on student learning.
Rising second-grader Stephanie Peralta said she likes the AC in the summer. When asked why, she responded, “It makes me not hot anymore.”
The district said broken air conditioning will always rise to one of the highest priorities for its existing facility maintenance resources and said it’s both a health issue for students and staff and an educational issue.
The costs for AC repairs and replacements are covered by funding that was cut significantly by the state as a recession strategy, but was never restored, according to the district. Duval County Public Schools said the state funding cut for facilities in 2008 and 2009 is one of the foundational causes of the maintenance problems the district currently endures.
The district said the Facilities Master Plan will address most, if not all, AC systems that are beyond their expected useful life.
A specific project cost for the AC problems during the last two weeks of school isn’t currently available, but the district said its major maintenance plan budgeted $2 million for this work over the year.