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SHS suffers from limited air conditioning during sweltering heat wave

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Posted: August 9, 2007 4:40 p.m.
Updated: August 24, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    During the hottest week so far this year, Statesboro High School students have had to deal with limited air conditioning. Oscillating fans and bottled water helped students keep their cool as the school's cooling system struggled under the heat wave, working at only 75 percent capacity due to calcification buildup in water pipes.
    Just one week into the school year, school officials had to juggle classes and send students to classrooms that were empty during some teachers' planning periods or to the media center, said Principal Marty Waters.
    Rumors that the school is without air conditioning are untrue, he said. It's just that the system is hampered by calcification buildup, is working at reduced capacity and has to work even harder to cool things off since the outside weather is unusually hot and humid.
    "The air conditioning is working," he said. "It kicks on and off. We're cooling classrooms with circulating fans, and it's not intolerable."
    The school's heating and air system, which will only be used one more year until the new school building is completed, has 144 elements and uses water to heat and cool the buildings. The units must be removed and cleaned by hand, and it will take about a day and a half, he said. Workers will deal with the problem over the weekend and by Monday, the system should be back at full capacity, he said.
    While not as cool as preferred, the school is not so warm that it endangers students and faculty, Waters said. "It's not like we're sitting here with the windows open."
    "Some wings had less air (cooling capabilities) than others," said Bulloch County School Superintendent Dr. Lewis Holloway. "The calcification reduced the cooling power and restricted (the cooling system's) effectiveness."
    The problem was " a little escalated because of the intense heat" this week, he said. Temperatures soared into triple digits and with the heat index, temperatures felt like they were as high as 115 degrees, according to weather experts.
    Holloway said the school was "using huge fans to move the air and students are taking frequent water breaks."
    Waters said he had spoken with only three parents who complained about the situation, and had received a few e-mails.  However, Carl Brister said he and his wife decided to check their daughter out of school early this week due to the heat.
    The first day of the problem, "we were told she would be moved from the classroom (to another cooler room) but  she was not," he said. For the rest of the week, his wife picked their daughter and the daughter of a friend up early because of what he said were unsatisfactory conditions.
    "According to my daughter, it was so uncomfortable, we thought it was necessary" to pick her up early, when the temperatures climbed, he said.
    The Bristers sent a letter to the school explaining why their daughter was leaving early, and forwarded a copy of the letter to school  board officials as well, stating they expected the absences from afternoon classes to be excused, he said.
    Waters said Thursday he was unaware of any parents removing their children from class due to the heat.
    Holloway said usually the school's cooling system is set to a higher temperature overnight, but since the system is not working at capacity, "we set thermostats to the day mode" so the schools would be cooler in the morning and the system would not take as long to reduce the temperature.
    "We don't believe it is a dangerous situation," he said.
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