After spending $34 million to repair or replace 10 air conditioning systems over the summer recess, Hillsborough County (Fla.) School District leaders are hoping the systems at dozens of other campuses will work when more than 200,000 students return to school later this week.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that as of Monday, every school in the district had a working air conditioner. But, Superintendent Jeff Eakins conceded at a back-to-school news conference, nearly 40 more schools are still in need of major repairs or replacement systems.
Eakins blamed state officials for not providing adequate funding.
"In some cases, we’ve had to make some tough choices between classroom needs or air conditioning," Eakins says. "We’re making the repairs, doing what we can. But I have to be honest with you. There are going to be times this year when those air conditioners are going to break."
Replacing an entire air conditioning system costs an estimated $3 million for an elementary school, $5 million for a middle school and between $7 million and $12 million for a high school, the district says. To reduce wear and tear on school units, thermostats are always set to 76 degrees during school hours, and automatically run at 80 degrees outside normal business hours.
Hillsborough County released a list of 38 schools in need of "immediate air conditioning overhauls or replacements" through 2021. The estimated total needed to complete those projects: more than $340 million.
Starting Friday, the district will launch a revised schedule aimed at getting more buses to schools on time.
The high school day will begin later than it used to, typically at 8:30 a.m. Elementary schools will begin at 7:40 a.m. Middle schools will see the least amount of change, typically running from 9:25 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.
Some schedules are different, especially at magnet schools.
The 10 schools that received air conditioning upgrades: Booker T. Washington, Crestwood, Edison, Gorrie, Morgan Woods, Wilson, Roosevelt and Cypress Creek elementary schools and Rodgers and Williams middle schools
VIDEO: Click here to view Eakins' back to school address.(Hillsborough Schools TV)