The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board received an air-conditioning alternative Monday night that board members found much more to their liking than fully air-conditioning all its schools.
At the March meeting of the board’s Finance Committee, its consulting architect, John J. Castellana, estimated that the full cost of air-conditioning the schools would amount to nearly $22 million.
But he said then that using window units for the classrooms and just air-conditioning the common areas, such as lunchrooms, auditoriums, and gymnasiums, would be considerably less expensive.
The committee asked him to go back to the drawing board and come up with new estimates for just cooling the common areas, and the result proved to be striking.
By eliminating the classrooms from the cost estimates, he told the committee Monday night, the total cost for just doing the common areas brought the price tag down to $1.95 million.
Superintendent Hardy Murphy said that many of the classrooms are already cooled with window units and that the additional cost of using that system to cool the remaining classrooms would be a mere $210,000.
The upshot was that, under the new estimates, the district’s schools could be air-conditioned for a total of $2.16 million.
Castellana recommended that, as individual schools undergo major renovation projects in the future, the board ought to consider implementing total air-conditioning as part of those projects.
While it is not considered a slam dunk that the money will be put into the budget for next year, it at least stands a chance as the board prioritizes its other spending demands, such as upgrading the technology system and completing its program of providing secure entrances to all the district’s schools.
As Kim Weaver, whose term on the board ends this month, put it: “We may have to decide between cooler classrooms and faster computers.”