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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Feasibility of conducting load study for air conditioning in schools is subject of proposal

Rep. José Enrique Meléndez Ortiz

By John McPhaul

At-large Rep. José Enrique “Quiquito” Meléndez Ortiz announced on Tuesday the filing of a resolution in the island House of Representatives to investigate the feasibility of conducting an electrical load study for each of the 856 schools in the island public education system to support the installation of air conditioning systems in each of the system’s 33,000 classrooms.

The measure also aims to study the possibility of expanding the capacity of the electrical substations that serve the island’s public schools.

“There is a reality and that is that most of the 856 public schools in Puerto Rico were built before the 1980s; none have more than 40 years of construction,” the New Progressive Party (NPP) lawmaker said. “This, together with the development of new housing and business complexes on the periphery of these schools, has undermined the distribution capacity of the substations. That is why we want to make a detailed study of the energy needs of each school, including the capacity of the substations.”

Meléndez’s comments came the day after the House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Deborah Soto Arroyo, announced that they will try to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 1040 on the installation of air conditioners in public schools.

“The governor vetoed the bill that both the House and Senate approved in May 2022, a vital project given the high levels of heat I have observed in my visits to schools at the beginning of classes,” Soto Arroyo said in a written statement.

In addition, she urged the New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation to join forces to overcome the governor’s veto, requiring a total of 34 votes.

“I know firsthand the difficulties students face with these heat levels,” the District 10 lawmaker said. “I invite the governor and the secretary of education to experience these conditions for themselves.”

Meléndez said the intention to install air conditioners in every public school classroom is laudable. However, he added, it is not feasible to do so without a certified load study that includes the substations. With his resolution, he seeks to know the real energy status of each campus and substation in order to outline a program that allows the installation of the units without stressing the electrical network.

“We cannot install without checking and rehabilitating the electrical structure in schools,” Meléndez said, “or without knowing the capacity of the substations. Doing so would be irresponsible and would endanger students. We believe that the Education Committee in the House of Representatives has the power to initiate this investigation, which should include, in addition to the Department of Education, LUMA Energy, the Electric Power Authority, Genera Puerto Rico and the Public Buildings Authority and the Society of Master Electricians, among others.”

Meléndez said the resolution will be filed this week and hopes that the Lower House will provide “the urgency it deserves by approving it as soon as possible.”

Later on Tuesday, designated Education Secretary Yanira Raices Vega met with other public school officials at the agency’s Hato Rey offices.

The meeting was still in progress at press time.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service announced Monday that a temperature record was set for Sept. 1 in San Juan at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

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