State efforts to cool more classrooms kicks into high gear

State efforts to cool more classrooms kicks into high gear

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With a sizzling summer just around the corner, state education officials are working out how to make good on a pledge to cool Hawaii's classrooms.

Some Board of Education members have expressed concerns about the state Department of Budget and Finance's decision to release less than half of a $100 million emergency appropriation for air conditioning, heat abatement methods and energy efficiency strategies approved in the legislative session that just ended.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Education has identified 33 priority schools for heat abatement projects.

The first phase of efforts focuses on installing solar-powered air conditioning in 130 portable classrooms.

"We will not have any kind of increase in electrical usage due to the fact that they're primarily PV (photovoltaic) powered," said Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent for the DOE's Office of School Facilities and Support Services.

The DOE also plans to provide air conditioning in at least another 830 classrooms in permanent buildings, which would bring the total number of classrooms to have air conditioning installed to roughly 960.

The cost estimate is $45 million, which is the amount released so far by the state Department of Budget and Finance. It's unclear exactly when the additional $55 million will be released, according to the DOE.

"I understand that they might be staging it out, but to just leave it unknown, 'You get less than half and we'll think about the rest,' really bothers me," said BOE member Jim Williams.

?Gov. David Ige has pledged to cool 1,000 classrooms by the end of this year.

A spokesperson for the governor said more money will be released as additional funds are needed and more contracts are executed.

Other schools will be evaluated to bring the final classroom count to more than 1,000.

Carlson said all of the air conditioners may not be installed by the end of the year, but the goal should be reached by January or February 2017.

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