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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

DE official: Installation of air conditioning in schools would cost $60,000 per classroom

Designated Education Secretary Yanira Raíces Vega

Department invests nearly $1.5 million in 32,000 fans to cool down schools

By The Star Staff

Senate Government Committee Chairman Ramón Ruiz Nieves led a public hearing Monday where the designated Education (DE) Secretary Dr. Yanira Raíces Vega was summoned to inform the panel how the agency is handling the issue of high temperatures in classrooms in public schools in Puerto Rico.

“I am grateful that Dr. Raíces and her team have appeared today at this public hearing,” Ruiz Nieves said at the outset. “I must start by making a public claim: there is a reality that must be seen and addressed; it is not reacting, it is planning properly. When you plan for the long term, you generate efficiencies in time and costs.”

In her presentation, the designated DE secretary stated that her priority “is to provide a safe environment conducive to learning for our students and we understand the importance of addressing these challenges with diligence.”

“That is why, as a short-term mitigation measure, the department, after a needs study circulated to all schools, decided to buy fans to be distributed in public schools,” Raíces Vega said.

She informed the committee that as of Monday the DE had acquired 32,000 fans, which are being distributed for use in classrooms according to the need established by each school director and prioritizing special education classrooms.

Other measures being taken include the establishment of hydration centers, which will be equipped with cold water at strategic points within each campus. DE officials are also considering options for evaluating electrical substations with an eye on installing air conditioners in public school classrooms.

“It’s the design, construction, electrical infrastructure, installation and so on,” said José Basora, director of the DE’s Office of Infrastructure and Recovery. “In Hawaii that happened, and it was around $60,000 for each room.”

Also during the hearing, Francisco Cruz Rivera, executive director of the DE’s Office for the Improvement of Public Schools, said that the feasibility of installing air conditioners at schools is something that must be taken into consideration, “especially in older schools.”

“The electrical capacity of the school, the wiring conditions, the electrical installations of the buildings and the type of system to be installed are essential elements that must be weighed in the determination to install air conditioning units,” he said.

The designated education secretary further stated that otherwise, the electrical system would be overloaded, “which creates risks for the school and the useful life of the equipment.”

“There are classrooms in our schools that have air-conditioning units installed, although this does not necessarily mean that the entire school has the equipment,” reads the official presentation of the DE.

Several examples of estimated costs for air installations were presented at the hearing, such as in Gloria Borrero School in Guayanilla, with a cost of $1,189,670; Pedro Perea Fajardo School in Mayagüez, at a cost of $2,655,655; and Antonio Paoli School in Caguas, at a cost of $493,200.

Air conditioners with a capacity of 24,000 BTU are recommended for a 900-square-foot room along with a dual inverter or commercial technology, with energy efficiency, since window-installed units are cheaper but less efficient and a “split unit” is more expensive and requires installation of ducts, an official noted.

The DE has ruled out central air conditioner systems as their replacement price has cost them between $10,000 and $25,000, and when the system fails the entire school is left without an air conditioner.

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