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D-S Regional School Committee Hears Presentation on Air Conditioning in Middle School

Teachers complained of the over 90-degree heat during warmer months.

The Dover-Sherborn Regional School Committee heard a presentation from R.W. Sullivan Engineering at Tuesday night’s meeting, on installing air conditioning in the D-S Middle School.

Principal Frederick Randall, teachers and parents voiced their concerns about the 90-plus degree heat in the classrooms during May, June and September.

The Middle School, which was built in 2003, was built with air conditioning in mind said D-S School Committee member Ellen Williamson, but the idea was taken off the board before it went to Town Meeting that year.

They believed students would be able endure the heat for a bearable amount of time.

R.W. Sullivan was commissioned by the School Committee six months ago to create a feasibility study.

Engineers Pat Curran and Remon Boules presented the information and answered any questions put forth.

Curran said the school retains heat very well, mainly because it is 50% glass and has a large glass atrium in the front of the building.

The engineers gave four options: a large stand-alone cooling unit on the roof for $880,000, a variant of the first option that costs $840,000, install cooling coils in the heating fans in the classrooms with a fan unit on the roof for $420,000, or several fan units on the roof for $590,000. Curran said those were all approximate figures.

The sub-committee that was formed to look at the issue believed the $420,000 option was the best.

Curran said they would look at what kind of utility discounts the school could receive for using green technologies.

School Committee member Richard Robinson said that the school has tried installing fans in the some of the rooms, which doesn’t work well, and opening all the windows at 4:30 a.m. every morning to reduce the heat. By noon, Randall said the heat become unbearable.

Robinson said, he believes, the high sixties or low seventy-degree temperatures are best for a comfortable learning atmosphere.

School Committee member Shelley Paulsen said that being in ninety degree heat for, “one fifth of the school year is unacceptable,” for teaching and learning conditions.

Paulsen noted that the reason the committee is looking into the overheated school is because teachers asked them to during contract negotiations.

Middle School teacher Irene Weitner said, “Even if it’s 65 degrees outside, it’s 75 to 80 degrees inside…easily 80 in the hallways."

She said some rooms are often 95 degrees in the warmer months. “There are six rooms that are more problematic than others. They are very difficult to teach in,” Weitner said.

Randall said when he first came to the Middle School six years ago, he conducted a survey amongst the teachers and parents and the top three suggestions among the approximately 700 people was to get air conditioning in the school.

When he started he was told the heat would, “only last a couple of days,” to “suck it up,” and it, “wasn’t warranted or worthy or remediation.”

He thanked Superintendent Valerie Spriggs and Chair Claire Graham for bringing the conversation to the table.

“We have not whined or complained,” Randall said. “This affects morale and performance.”

Randall said he has had students wheeled to the nurse’s office because of dehydration during the hottest days.

He invited anyone to come down to his office to pick up a visitor’s pass and spend a day in the heat. 

Spriggs recommended to the School Board consider the entire budget when considering this issue. 



Joan Panek October 05, 2011 at 08:47 PM
Clearly, excessive heat in a school is undesirable at the least, and potentially dangerous. So, some cooling change is necessary. But it must have occurred to someone, during the design phase, that given Dover and Sherborn's history of being fiscally careful that the elimination of air conditioning was at least a possibility, and perhaps designing the school to take advantage of every possible method of heating and cooling in a cost effective and "green" way would be desirable. It isn't only the cost of purchasing air-conditioning equipment now, it is the additional annual cost of running it, that will impact the school's budget. Did D/S participate in the Massachusetts Green School Initiative, or work with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative? If you did not use air-conditioning, you need to have taken that into consideration when you design your building. Otherwise, you get stuck adding it in later. I would hope that such an addition will be done with an eye to being very efficient, with every cost and energy savings possible.

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