DOE way behind schedule in push to cool 1,000 classrooms

DOE way behind schedule in push to cool 1,000 classrooms

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state has so far installed air conditioners in only 42 classrooms under the governor's plan to cool 1,000 classrooms by the end of the year.

Contracts for 25 additional classrooms have been finalized and projects for 832 other classrooms are out to bid, according to a state Department of Education progress report presented at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday. The rest of the solicitations are expected to be issued in the coming months.

"I think we made the right choice in slowing things down and reducing the risk to the contractors to drive the price even lower," said DOE assistant superintendent Dann Carlson.

Carlson said the initial bids came back higher than anticipated due to the construction boom. After meeting with the contractors, the department reconfigured the projects and also doubled the pool of pre-qualified companies from 18 to 36.

"We made it very clear that we were not going to make this December timeframe, but we felt it was a fiscally responsible thing to do, to slow down, make sure we could get competitive with our bids," Carlson explained.

The DOE expects to reach Gov. David Ige's goal of cooling 1,000 classrooms by June 30, before the start of the next school year.

"We did get better pricing, but we lost some time, so I do think that it's a learning curve," said Ige. "As we get better attuned to what is happening in the industry, it will allow us to get better pricing."

There are 33 public schools on the heat abatement priority list. The state Legislature set aside $100 million for air conditioning and other cooling measures, such as ceiling fans.

"We have about 7,000 classrooms in Hawaii that don't have air conditioning. I would rather it be done cheaply so that we get more classrooms done," said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

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