EWA BEACH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Jennifer Pimentel teaches at Ewa Beach Elementary. The school is tops on the DOE's priority list for getting air conditioning.
"On a day with no breeze, when it's really sunny like it is, it definitely can get close to 100°," she said.
The DOE estimates it would cost $765 million to install AC in 53 elementary schools, $330 million for 33 middle schools, and $600 million for 40 high schools. The total is about $1.7 billion.
HSTA president Corey Rosenlee believes it can be done for one-tenth that cost.
"We put photovoltaic cells on the roof. We run it to a battery that goes to the air conditioning," he said. "We think we can do a room for $15,000-$20,000 per classroom. And that brings it down by 90%."
DOE communications director Donalyn Dela Cruz said the department stands by its $1.7 billion figure. She said it factors in electrical and other infrastructure upgrades older buildings would need to support AC.
"We're going to energy experts within the energy industries, trying to find out ways that we can do things in an energy efficient way that will cool classrooms." she said.
Rosenlee believes if there are fewer classrooms than what the DOE counts as needing AC, the cost would come down. He will ask teachers to survey their own schools.
"When you say $1.7 billion, and you tell the public it's $250,000 per classroom, we're almost shutting the door on what needs to be fixed," he said.
Dela Cruz said the DOE invites Rosenlee to look at its books, and give the department direction.
"Do we want new classrooms, and making sure that's there in terms of our CIP budget? Or do we want to put all of that on hold and just tell the legislature we only want money for AC?" she said.
While the AC debate heats up, Pimental's getting ready for another year of teaching her third-graders in an overheated atmosphere.