Sunday, June 23, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Sunday, January 5, 2020
Cooling the Schools: The Reality
By Tom Yamachika @ 4:00 AM :: 3618 Views :: Education K-12, Energy

Cooling the Schools: The Reality

by Tom Yamachika, President Tax Foundation Hawaii

It wasn’t long ago that, in response to numerous complaints of students sweltering in their classrooms, Governor Ige proclaimed that he would commit $100 million to cool 1,000 classrooms. At the end of the 2016 legislative session, he signed Act 47 of 2016 appropriating the funds to the Department of Education (DOE), and in 2018 he trumpeted this accomplishment during his re-election campaign.

As KHON2 reported in November, the $100 million covered only about one-tenth of public school classrooms in Hawaii. Those classrooms received solar powered systems costing an average of $40,000 per classroom. Fast forward a little, and we see that some schools that received the units found that they either have started breaking down or will only work for a short time every day.

KITV, in a more recent newscast this year, reported that one school, Niu Valley Middle School in east Honolulu, reported more than 300 heat-related visits to the school nurse’s office over the course of four months (August through November). That’s between 3 and 4 kids per school day needing medical attention. Ouch.

One teacher, writing about his experience on the “Cool Our Keiki” Facebook group, said that his school administration tried to fix the situation. “The DOE brought in a team of state workers to evaluat[e], and their recommendation? Wait for a sunny day so the batteries can charge.” In the six weeks that followed, he reports, there were plenty of sunny days but the air conditioners in his classroom and his neighbor’s classroom still don’t work.

Not only that, air conditioning upgrades may make matters worse at times. When some companies install the upgrades, they fix the windows so they can’t be opened, as KHON2 reported. If the unit fails for whatever reason, using the trade winds is no longer an option.

Why solar powered air conditioning? Because the DOE is under a mandate to have net zero electrical consumption to meet Hawaii green energy goals.

Is there a way out of this mess? The DOE thinks so, as it has rolled out a “School Directed A/C” program that allows basic, affordable window units if the DOE staff verities that the school’s electrical system can handle the extra load. It turns out that the DOE recently completed a large project to replace 700,000 light bulbs at Oahu schools with more efficient LED bulbs, reducing electric usage and creating the capacity to install air conditioning while still being “net zero.”

In a press release, DOE’s assistant superintendent for facilities and operations describes the window units: “These are less complex units from installation to maintenance, where we’re not having to tear down walls or install solar panels or battery systems. It will be easier for our schools to maintain these units rather than having to contract out for maintenance service,” she said.

“Things can be done much, much cheaper,” KHON2 quotes HSTA President Corey Rosenlee as saying. “You can probably do a classroom for $2,000 where before it cost $100,000. If a wall unit falls apart after 10 years, then you can replace it. It’s easy to look back now and say we should have done this 5 years ago.”

Okay, so where does that leave us? We spent a massive amount of money on our schools a few years ago and have gotten questionable results. We have since identified a much cheaper and more efficient path toward addressing the health and safety issue that still plagues our keiki. Educators, are there lessons to be learned from all of this? If so, tell your administrators! Let’s learn from this debacle and use our public money more efficiently next time.


TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii Military History

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Together


Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

July 4 in Hawaii

Land and Power in Hawaii

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

NRA-ILA Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

School Choice in Hawaii

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii