Governor's goal to cool 1,000 classrooms hits snag

Governor’s goal to cool 1,000 classrooms hits snag
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

EWA BEACH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Ilima Intermediate School, painters with Blue Pacific Construction spread white paint onto the roof of one of six buildings being coated to reflect the sun and to cool down classrooms where temperatures can reach into the upper 90s.

So far four buildings have the new roof surface.

Ilima is near the top of the Department of Education's list for air conditioning.

"Last school year they began with the portable ACs on campus. So we have that going on. And we also looked at doing the nightime flushing of the classroom," principal Christopher Bonilla said.

Governor David Ige's goal to install AC in 1,000 classrooms by the end of the year is now in jeopardy. Blame it on the state's building boom.  It prompted only a few contractors to submit AC bids to the Hawaii Department of Education.

"Look anywhere in Honolulu and you see building everywhere. That entire industry is very overloaded at this time," HIDOE Facilities Deputy Superintendent Dann Carlson said.

Bids that did come in were expensive.  One contractor quoted $135,000 per classroom when industry estimates priced the work at $20,000 a classroom.

"They came back astronomically high," Carlson said. "So we are electing to slow down and slow down that process."

The DOE now believes delivering AC to the governor's goal may be pushed into next year, maybe as late as April. The department hopes future bids will come in lower.

"We're extremely disappointed. We didn't expect the bids to come in that high. We think that the department is doing the right thing by just looking for more moderately priced bids. Hopefully, that will take care of the problem," HSTA executive director Wilbert Holck said.

"By doing this we can hopefully hit a lot more than 1,000 classrooms, and we can also do it in a fiscally responsible way," Carlson said.

In a statement, Ige urged contractors to be "part of the solution."

"We are committed to providing a healthier and safer environment for our public school students," he said.

The DOE will eventually install air conditioning in 18 classrooms at Ilima. Last year, classroom temperatures closed in on 100 degrees.

"We're going to go along with a lot of our heat abatement strategies. So stuff like painting reflective coating on roofs and putting nocturnal flushing in, all those different passive kinds of things that we can do," Carlson said.

"We are making strong recommendations to install additional chilled water fountains on the first floor," Bonilla said. "We're also looking at the material that our uniforms are made of, looking at doing a dry-fit uniform."

Ilima has also designated air-conditioned rooms where overheated students can go into to cool off.

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