The town council has approved funding for the first step in installing air-conditioning in four elementary schools.
The unanimous vote on Tuesday will pay for $550,000 in electrical upgrades at Hebron Avenue, Buttonball Lane, Hopewell and Naubuc elementary schools, which will allow units to be installed in classrooms. The remaining $50,000 will be used for a study to determine the cost of the entire project, now estimated at $2.7 million.
Council Chairman Stewart “Chip” Beckett III said that, two years ago, the council unanimously decided the elementary schools needed air conditioning. Nayaug Elementary, Smith Middle School and Glastonbury High School all have central air.
“The question was not if, but what and how,” he said. “It’s taken us two years and two engineering studies to figure out what it was and plan how to pay for it. This is the first step on how to pay for it. The rest isn’t known yet, so we can’t appropriate money for what we don’t know.”
In addition to the electrical upgrades and study, the plan calls for the $440,000 purchase of 110 units that would be installed in classrooms. Estimates for installation run from $550,000 to $1.65 million. The study will determine the exact cost and funding for the final step will be reviewed in January.
“This is an outstanding first step,” school board Chairwoman Susan Karp said. “I realize it is a compromise, but that’s often what first steps are. … We will design the most cost-effective and efficient project.”
Councilwoman Jill Barry said she was disappointed that the project wasn’t approved in its entirety. She urged the next council to fund the final portion of the project.
“I think this project has gone through its cycle,” said Councilman William T. Finn, who called the funding “an appropriate expenditure.” “The board of education has done their process in terms of reviewing the project from its inception of $20 million [for central air] and now down to $1.6 or $2.7 million. That is certainly a more manageable number to move forward with.”
Resident Pamela Lockard, a retired teacher, spent much of her career teaching in classrooms that weren’t air-conditioned.
“I cannot say strongly enough how difficult it is to endure 90 degree heat day after day as a teacher and as a student,” she said. “It’s ridiculous that a town like Glastonbury still has elementary schools that don’t have air conditioning.”