EWA BEACH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state said Tuesday it has installed air conditioning units in 796 classrooms in the islands, and hopes to reach 1,000 by the end of the month.
The significant progress in cooling school classrooms comes as most public school students prepare to return to class on Aug. 7.
At Ilima Intermediate, the state Education Department has met its pledge to put in solar-powered AC in one-third of the school's hottest classrooms.
"They're definitely on track," principal Christopher Bonilla said.
Ilima Intermediate is number two on the DOE's list of schools needing heat abatement measures. Besides the new air conditioning units, the cafeteria is now cooled by four industrial size ceiling fans, and an area near the administration building is being resurfaced to make space for shade trees.
"These type of upgrades at our school are very historic" Bonilla said. "Our community, our students are going to benefit from this. When we talk about providing optimal learning environments, it's here at Ilima Intermediate."
Ewa Beach Elementary is number one on the DOE's list of schools that need cooler classrooms. When humidity's high indoor temperatures can soar into the triple digits. When school starts next week 750 students and their teachers will feel the difference.
"We have photovoltaic and batteries installed for all our classrooms," vice principal Derek Santos said.
Contractors are finishing installing PV AC in the school's 31 classrooms. A test run dropped the temperature in one classroom to 71 degrees.
"We're looking at the end of this week, so Aug. 4, in firing everything up," Santos said.
In addition to air conditioning installations and other heat abatement measures, Campbell High School put in a large shade canopy over a main courtyard to help cool surrounding buildings.
In 2016, state lawmakers appropriated $100 million for AC and other heat abatement measures to cool schools. Measures include ceiling fans, heat reflective material, covered walkways and awnings, and added trees on campuses.
The upgrades at Ewa Beach Elementary cost $2 million. Improvements include machinery that will flush out the warm air that builds up in classrooms overnight. Santos said the school has been patiently waiting for measures that would lower classroom temperatures.
"Now seeing it come to fruition is exciting for the school," he said. "We're happy to be on this journey with the Department of Education."