ShareThis Page

North Hills Middle School will be last in district for cooldown

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Kirsten Bogniard's daughter sweats it out playing basketball at North Hills Middle School.

The heat caused by exertion is compounded by the eighth-grader playing in a gym in a school without air conditioning, said Bogniard, a Ross resident.

“It's extremely hot in there,” she said.

Most of the school in Ross will be cooled off in September 2015 when installation of a $7 million air conditioning system is complete, although the gym won't be air conditioned. The school, built in the late 1950s, is the last North Hills school to get air conditioning, said David Hall, the district's director of finance and operations.

It's rare for schools in the Northeast not to have air conditioning, said Irene Nigaglioni, chairwoman of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a partner at PBK Architects in Dallas.

Of 308 Pennsylvania school districts and other educational entities that responded to a survey about the 2007-08 school year, 41 percent reported having air conditioning building-wide, 44 percent had limited areas of air conditioning, and 15 percent had no air conditioning, according to the state Department of Education.

“It's an expectation now, I believe. I mean, almost any public building you go in now has air conditioning,” said Bogniard, whose 10-year-old son will be a student at the middle school when the project is done.

In 1998, the district began renovating its schools, none of which had air conditioning, Hall said. In 2005, it began adding air conditioning, starting with the high school.

“So that has been our intention and heavily discussed and promised to everybody through our whole facility renovation program that's been going on since the early 2000s,” he said.

Adding an air-conditioning system to a school is an expensive, invasive undertaking, Hall said.

“It's a major project that includes big water chiller units, running piping through the buildings, replacing all the unit ventilation in every classroom,” he said.

The middle school work will include installation of security cameras in the building and parking areas, replacement of flooring in some classrooms, the addition of a security entrance and mitigation of radon, he said.

The work, including the air conditioning system, will cost about $8 million, Hall said. The work starts in May.

At its meeting Monday, the school board approved awarding a construction management contract to Thomas & Williamson Program Management in Ross.

The work is being paid for with savings accrued over several years and proceeds from the sales of two former schools: Northway Elementary School, sold for $2.6 million in July, and Perrysville Elementary School, sold for $630,000 in January 2012, Hall said.

A lack of air conditioning in a school can do more than make students uncomfortable. It can affect students' academic performance, experts said.

Thermal comfort, ventilation and good indoor air quality are critical to establishing an optimal classroom environment, Nigaglioni said.

“It's the same as the workplace because it's going to affect the way people work,” she said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.