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It would cost in excess of $22 million to install central air-conditioning at all of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 elementary and middle schools, and that was more than the board’s Finance Committee was willing to bear.

At its regular monthly meeting Monday night, the committee heard a report from the district’s consulting architect, John Castellana, on the results of a study the district promised its teachers during contract negotiations last year.

Four of the district’s schools—Kingsley, Lincoln, Bessie Rhodes, and Park –already have central air, and several of the other schools have air-conditioned common areas, such as auditoriums and lunchrooms.

Additionally, about half of the remaining classrooms have window units that can be controlled by the teachers as needed on hot days.

On a 70-degree day, the committee was told, while a school with central air would be in full air-conditioning mode, some teachers with window units typically elect to keep their units off and open the remaining windows for fresh outside air.

Castellana said that large self-contained windowless areas such as auditoriums, could be cooled with rooftop units while individual classrooms could be equipped with window units.

He noted at the outset of his report that the consultants had looked into installing geothermal heating and cooling, which involves digging deep below the earth’s surface to tap the consistent temperatures there which would result in a great savings in energy costs.

However, he said, the consultants concluded that the initial costs would be so great that with today’s relatively low costs for natural gas and electricity, it would take 20 years to reach payback. This compares with four to 10 years for geothermal in new facilities.

“It did not make sense,” Castellana said, “to look at geothermal for providing air-conditioning at your existing buildings.”

The cost of installing central air, the consultants estimated, would be $22,536,852, which would include construction costs, design contingency at 5 percent, and construction contingency at 15 percent.

The estimate includes all associated work for ceiling replacements and the like that would accommodate new chilled water piping and associated items, Castellana said.

The committee asked the architect to come back to them with updated figures for work, including window units for classrooms, that would be considerably less than $22 million.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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6 Comments

  1. There is inequity at D65

    I'm surprised that Dewey doesn't have central air since it received two additions in the past several years.

    Willard got an addition recently so it probably has some central air and Lincoln just received a beautiful and expensive addition so it's no surprise it doesn't have central air.

    Kids in other schools like Oakton, Walker and overcrowded Lincolnwood get the shaft. 

    Some D65 kids in a select few schools get foreign language instruction under TWI and others do not. Some kids at select schools get to learn in a comfortable air-conditioned classroom environment during hot weather while other kids suffer in hot muggy classrooms because not all of them have window units.

    My kids' school at Lincolnwood doesn't have central air throughout or TWI and still it is overcrowded and is being used as an experiment to mainstream the district's students with behavioral problems.

    Think of an overcrowded classroom containing a few students with severe behavioral problems and no aide present with no air conditionining on a hot muggy day. It has happened at Lincolnwood.

    There is inequity in Evanston elementary and middle schools.

    1. TWI

      TWI is a bilingual education program for native Spanish speakers that includes native English speakers. It is not a foreign language program.

  2. D65 lacks common sense on no AC, school schedule and saving $$$

    If only District 65 would exercise a little bit of common sense,  the "no air conditioning" situation could be vastly improved while enhancing students' educational experience.  Here's how:

    1.   Adopt a school calendar with a start date AFTER Labor Day.  Do it every year.

    2.  Schedule far fewer days off or half days off.  This includes Pulaski Day holiday, Veterans Day holiday and King Day holiday.  Stay in school on those days and spend some time on those days studying the reason for the holiday.   Pick up four or five full days in school.

    3.  Eliminate all half-day "teacher training days" scattered throughout the year.  Many teachers have recounted a lack of quality training during slap dash, disorganized chat sessions any way.  Replace with one full training day in the fall (added before school starts), one in the winter and another in the spring (added right after school ends).  Lose only one school day to training than the 7 or 8 half days lost now. 

    And save the money wasted on busing students for these ridiculous half days. 

    And the half day school days are a joke.  Consider this:  my kid has had these half days and the schedule is constantly judggled.  One time this year, each class was giiven 12 minutes.  Foolishness!  What learning or teaching even takes place in a 12-minute class period?  Answer:  none.  I told the principal that my child will not come to school on half days when each class is only 12 minutes.  We'll go to a museum.  These half days result in money wasted on all fronts and valuable time on task essentially flushed down the toilet by uncaring or at least unthinking administrators.

    4.  End the school year by June 1.

    Conclusion:  If D65 had a smart approach to the school year,  keeping students on task and in school for more consecutive days, there would be a positive educational result.  And the bonus:  fewer days in August and June for students and teachers in schools with no AC to swelter through and fewer cooling days to pay to cool the schools that have AC.  And transportation costs spent more wisely.

    Wow.  Think of that.  Something that helps students learn, reduces costs for D65 and gives parents/caregivers a more consistent schedule to plan child care.

    But oops — I should not have mentioned that parents would be helped because helping parents cope with the challenges of childcare is the death knell for D65 to support a change.  It's as if the administrators constantly look for ways to complicate family life with a complicated schedule that benefits no one.

    If D65 is losing $300,000 due to the sequester, D202 had better expect the same or worse.  Time to look for every option to save money, especially when those options can improve our children's educational experience.

    1. District 65 Calendar

      While I appreciate your frustration regarding some of the half days, holidays, and professional development days in District 65, unfortunately the district does not have complete control over the calendar and some of your proposed solutions would not save the district money.   For instance:  The state requires a number of hours for professional development training for teachers–public school can't opt out of the minimum requirement and must account for all of these hours to remain in good standing. Only some school holidays are truly 'optional,' while most are either required or must be traded for a different holiday.  In addition, when a district chooses not to lengthen the school year they often do so because lengthening the school year costs money–you must pay people to go to work and you must pay to open buildings and keep them running.  Lastly, the current District 202 calendar (which dictates the 65 school year) is itself controlled by the sports seasons.  This is why high schools in the state follow basically the same schedule.  In fact, Evanston schools open later than most.  Many schools begin back in early August to accomodate the football practice schedules and to avoid having to pay sponsors overtime over the summer.  The calendar is far more complicated than one would first think. 

    2. 1/2 days a waste, year around school needed

      I've been both a student and a teacher and firmly believe 1/2 days are a waste of time for both and a waste of energy.  I understand that the schools have only so much control over holidays and staff development time due to state rules but that's no excuse for not doing what they can and advocating to change the rules.  I truly think that days like President's Day and Martin Luther King Day should be school days dedicated to learning about why we think these people were important and what they fought for, not playing xbox.

      As for teacher development days those should happen right before school starts again after breaks.

      I disagree with the start and end dates though to avoid hot days, as I am convinced that we need year around school.  The amount of learning that leaks out of kids heads over the summer is truly amazing and alarming.  School should start in September and be a trimester system with 3, 3 week breaks.  One in December, one in April and one in August. Being off in August avoids what is usually the hottest part of the summer in IL.  We would need to invest in more AC units for the classrooms but I don't think that would be too costly.  Retro fitting central air is not really needed but should be included in any new schools built.

      Just my two cents.

  3. Get creative

    I agree with TheOriginalAnonymous. For one, you don't need to start school in August to accommodate the football practice. Of the total student population, few are impacted by an August practice schedules. The state may require teachers receive a set number of hours for professional development but is there a set day/time for development?  Half days are unnecessarily disruptive. Lastly, maybe not all of them, but can we eliminate any of the optional school holidays? What about cutting back winter break from two weeks to one week? Does the state mandate that as well? There are most likely a number of creative ways to address this need but as usual, Evanston’s school boards like to pretend they are playing with monopoly money and do not see the value in getting creative.

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