Selectmen approve $355K for electric panels, air conditioning in schools
DARIEN — New electric panels and air conditioning units could help provide a cooler classroom for students in the near future.
On Monday, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a special appropriation of $355,000 for the electrical upgrades at all district public schools. The proposal will now have to get approval from the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting.
“We’re now experiencing increased hot weather at a far greater rate in number of days than we have in the past,” Board of Education Chairman Tara Ochman said at the meeting. “This includes the beginning of the school year and the latter half of the year.”
Teachers have said their classrooms have reached 95 degrees throughout the day, she said, and some teachers have chosen to occasionally teach in hallways where it’s cooler and there are no windows.
“It’s hard to argue good teaching and learning is going on when kids are in that kind of heat,” Ochman said.
The upgrades proposal came as the Board of Education discussed their budget for the upcoming year. There were funds left from the previous year that could have funded the upgrades, but the board was obligated to return any unused funds to the town.
Ochman said any additional hardware and increased costs for utilities would be budgeted by the Board of Education in future requests to the town. However, funds for the electric panels would need to be approved now to have the upgrades installed by spring, she said.
“We believe with the bids we have and the people we’ve talked to that, if this is kept on time, our students can be in an educationally correct environment,” Ochman said. “We’ve been told this is around the range of 78 degrees.”
Selectman Pamela Sparkman asked if solar panels were a part of the plan to absorb some of the costs. The Board of Education has already approved solar panels on three of their buildings — Holmes Elementary, Tokeneke Elementary and the central office.
“We’re estimating about $1 million of savings over the next 10 years,” Ochman said. “The other buildings weren’t suitable.”
In addition to the electric panels will be air conditioning units for the classrooms. Mike Lynch, the district’s director of facilities, said the units will run for 50 to 65 days a year.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said she was supportive of the initiative to create a better learning environment.
“Hopefully you can move forward with the necessary approvals,” Stevenson said.