IN THE NEWS:  Millions spent to upgrade former elementary school into DOE office space,  AC included

DOE spends millions to upgrade former elementary school, AC included
By Kristine Uyeno
Published: July 27, 2015, 6:57 pm
Updated: July 27, 2015, 6:58 pm

Most public school students return to class this week, many to rooms that don’t have air conditioning.

Yet the state is transforming a former elementary school into office space, which includes an upgrade to the air conditioning system.

The state closed Queen Liliuokalani Elementary School in Kaimuki four years ago to save money, about half a million dollars a year.

Now, education officials are pumping millions into the school, but they say it’s for the same reason.

Next year, about a hundred Department of Education employees will move in and “that in alone in itself will bring us a lot of efficiencies in the fact that we’re working in the same vicinity of each other. We don’t have to try to coordinate to meet,” said assistant superintendent Dann Carlson.

DOE officials said that will save the state $900,000 a year, since officials won’t have to rent other places where those employees are currently at.

Right now, the state is spending $1.1 million to turn the classrooms into offices, and $2.3 million for a data center that will hold all the servers for all the public schools across the state.

“It does sound like a lot of money, but everything we do now is based around us having access to broadband,” Carlson said.

Part of the money being spent for renovations is being used to upgrade the air conditioning system.

“There are guidelines given to us by (Department of Accounting and General Services) that require us to provide air conditioning for those facilities, so we took advantage of the opportunity that we’re going to retrofit this campus so that it makes sense for us to use for administrators, and in the process it only made sense to us to add air conditioning at that time,” Carlson said.

“If there are guidelines for employees, are there any guidelines for students?” KHON2 asked.

“There are. There are guidelines. Again, there are a lot of factors involved here as well as the union, as well as different areas, there are guidelines as far as temperatures. I don’t know the specifics on it,” Carlson said.

“It’s interesting in our society that we’re willing to make sure air conditioners are used so our computers don’t go bad, but are we making sure that we use air conditioners to make sure our students are also not in unhealthy environments?” said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Rosenlee continues to stress the importance of cooler classrooms.

“A teacher’s working conditions are our students’ learning conditions and when it’s so hot, our bodies are breaking down, it’s uncomfortable. This is not the best way science has shown for our students to learn,” he said.

The DOE wants to stress it is not against installing air conditioners in schools. In fact, right now, officials say they are working on 17 projects on Oahu that include AC in classrooms.