COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Nine Columbus City Schools will start the academic year without building-wide air conditioning.
A year ago, the district told NBC4 Investigates’ Jamie Ostroff every building would have an updated HVAC system by the end of this summer.
The cause of the delay? Supply chain issues.
Of the nine schools that won’t have AC by the first day of school on Aug. 24, the district says five of them will have it by Sept. 12. Another should have its new HVAC installed by the end of September.
Still, Columbus Alternative High School, Mifflin Middle School and Hubbard Elementary School will remain without building-wide air conditioning for the 2022-2023 school year. Even though the district can’t control supply chain hang-ups, the teachers’ union says this is unacceptable.
The three schools were among the last 16 Columbus City School buildings without AC, following a five-year improvement plan that wrapped up in 2021. Thanks to a $44 million federal funding boost last year, the district said it could put HVAC systems in all of its schools.
At the time, the district told us all 16 projects were on track to be finished by the end of the summer.
“Promises were made and promises are not being kept,” said Regina Fuentes of the Columbus Education Association.
Fuentes is the spokesperson for the CEA — now at a standstill in contract negotiations with the school board. Adequate air conditioning is one of several items on the union’s list of demands.
“I feel for my students every single time I see them freezing, or burning hot, you know, because when they’re too hot, they put their heads down,” said Fuentes. “And there’s no learning happening.”
I told Fuentes what the school board told me: the projects were delayed by supply chain issues. She said the problems run deeper than that.
“You know, it’s a likely situation. However, this is not a new problem. The district has been dealing with complaints about our HVAC for years,” said Fuentes. “The broader picture is that we’ve worked conditions that are unsafe and fully resourced for our students.”
A Columbus City Schools spokesperson said a contract should be in place this fall, to put HVAC systems in two of the three schools next summer.