With temperatures daily pushing 90 degrees, it is sometimes hard to remember how cold it was in Highland high school and middle school classrooms earlier this year.

It was cold, really cold.

At the same time some of the classrooms were hot with teachers opening windows to let in freezing cold air to cool down the rooms.

It is no secret that the heating and air conditioning system does not work at the secondary school buildings.

The Highland school board has called for a district vote on a $3.7 million bond issue for Sept. 10. The bulk of the bond money would go to upgrading the school’s heating and air conditioning system and installing energy efficient windows.

The secondary building has been constructed over four phases and as a result has four different HVAC systems in place.

Some of the building has central air conditioning; some of the classrooms have window units and other parts of the building do not have any air. 

District consultant Mike Jorgensen said that some classrooms have windows open in the winter because they get so hot while others are using space heaters because they don’t warm up.

“There are areas that don’t have cooling and very little heating that will be addressed by this,” Jorgensen said. “It’s just not right in this building.”

Teachers were contacted last April and asked about the challenges of teaching under these conditions. 

“We desperately need to do something about the system,” social studies teacher Jayme Kallaus said. “It is very non-productive to learn and work in a room that is extremely hot or too cold and try to perform to the standards that we expect from this district.”

How cold does it get?

Dean of Students Bill Zywiec, bundled in a parka while supervising lunch in the middle school cafeteria on a cold day, brought in a thermometer. It read 49.2 by the end of the lunch period.

In Justin Rapier’s language arts classroom, “an abnormally large” air conditioning unit is in the ceiling. Fans running non-stop make it difficult for students to hear lessons.

“The kids used to have a nickname for the unit – the iron tornado,” Rapier said. “I have since renamed it Angry Elsa after the character from “Frozen” because when it turns on, that’s how you feel.”

“It would be beneficial to student learning to have a room that we have control of temperature, and the students are not working in either a meat locker or an oven,” high school teacher Lisa Bohannan said.

Band instructor Mark Bressler said the heating system works too well in his classroom during the winter. He needs to open windows to keep the classroom moderately comfortable.

“Each time I have to open the window, I can see the heat and tax dollars escape into the atmosphere,” he said. “Meanwhile, other classrooms in our building could use the heat we are allowing to escape from the music room.”

The $3.7 million bond issue needs yes votes from 60 percent of voters in the election to pass.

If approved by voters, the bond issue would fund:

• Replacing and improving the heating and air conditioning system. $2.175 million

• Replacing high school windows with energy efficient windows. $42,745.

• Constructing, furnishing and equipping an addition the fine arts area of the high school building. This would include related remodeling to the existing building. $177,650.

• Upgrading and equipping the playground at the elementary school. $376,000.

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