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HVAC system repairs at elementary school could take more than a year

KCTV

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    TONGANOXIE, Kansas (KCTV) — On a snowy April day, students at Tonganoxie Elementary School are dealing with cool weather inside their building, too.

On Tuesday, parents were told to dress their children in layers because the HVAC system at the school building isn’t working and hasn’t been the entire school year.

For some parents, the news came as a surprise when they received an email from Tonganoxie District Superintendent Loren Feldkamp Tuesday morning.

Feldkamp called the ongoing lack of heat at Tonganoxie Elementary School “inconsistent HVAC issues” that have caused the district $69,431 in repairs since July 2020. Most of the repairs have failed after a few days.

Ali Keith’s third grader mentioned she was cold during her school day over the winter, but Keith said she didn’t think much of it until she received an email a couple of months ago in February addressing the issue.

She said she didn’t hear back from the district and assumed the issue was resolved. But last week, a staff member told her to dress her child in layers ahead of Tuesday’s brisk, snowy day.

The HVAC units are failing close to 10 years sooner than expected. Teachers and students have had to rely on space heaters for warmth in some classrooms. According to Feldkamp, the staff is making sure classroom temperatures are above 63 to 65 degrees at the start of the day, but Keith said that’s not true.

“I’ve been in contact with staff members at the school today who confirmed that a lot of the classrooms are below 60 degrees,” said Keith.

The space heaters have resulted in electrical surges and blown fuses. Keith said that while being cold “is not the end of the world,” she admits her child and other students are distracted and uncomfortable during the school day.

“The most important part of our lives are in [their] care every single day and to not know that this was an ongoing issue… The communication just needs to be better,” expressed Keith, who said she’s frustrated at the lack of transparency by the district.

Replacing all of the units will be “very expensive” and Feldkamp said technicians are not sure where the root of the problem is located; it’s a mix of electrical and mechanical issues.

The repair may impact the district’s budgets over the next several years. The district has contacted the companies that installed the original equipment seven years ago.

Feldkamp said the district will prioritize the most impacted units and work their way through the rest, which will take a year or more.

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