Air Conditioning Sought for More Southeast Schools

Times Staff Writer

Although the Los Angeles school board showed united support Monday for spending $6.2 million to air-condition more of the district's year-round classrooms, a debate is brewing over which sweltering schools deserve relief first.

By a 7-0 vote, the board instructed the district's controller to include the funds to design and install air conditioning in 43 year-round schools in the proposed 1985-86 budget. The budget is expected to be approved at the board's Aug. 26 meeting.

But board member Jackie Goldberg, whose district includes several year-round schools in the Central City and Hollywood, has criticized the priority list that establishes which schools will be air-conditioned this year. According to Goldberg, many of the schools that have suffered the longest are still only partially air-conditioned. Most are in the district's Southeast and Central City areas.

A member of the board's building committee, which reviews such matters, Goldberg said she intends to press for an overhaul of the priority list to favor those schools that have been in the year-round program since it began in 1979. She said she plans to raise the issue at a Building Committee meeting scheduled today.

"It is no longer tolerable to tell schools that are five or six years into this (year-round) program to say, 'Well, folks, you are in group six and in 1988 you'll have air conditioning,' " she said. "If we're going to spend $6.2 million, it ought to go to them first."

The district has spent $5 million to $6 million a year on the air-conditioning program since 1983. According to Byron Kimball, who oversees district building and maintenance, the district has used those funds to spread the cool classrooms around the district, rather than completely air-condition any one school all at once.

"The idea was to try to give a little something to everybody," Kimball said.

According to a district staff report, it will cost $5.5 million to completely air-condition the 42 schools that were the first to go year-round in 1979 and 1980. However, only $2.4 million of the proposed $6.2 million allocation has been earmarked for schools in that group.

The $2.4 million will complete the air conditioning at only six of the oldest year-round schools. However, under the current proposal, seven schools that went year-round later--from 1981 to 1983--will be completely air-conditioned during the next school year.

The proposed allocation will pay for design and installation of cooling systems for a limited number of classrooms at seven other schools in the original group of year-round facilities. They will have to wait two to three years for complete air conditioning if the district plan is followed.

Larry Gonzalez, chairman of the committee and the board member who represents schools in the district's eastern and southeastern regions, said he is likely to side with Goldberg.

"It's an issue of credibility," he said, adding that "we've got to be able to assure the parents of children who will go year-round that their schools will be on line for full air conditioning."

New List Not Favored

But East San Fernando Valley board member Roberta Weintraub, who also is on the committee, said she will fight any effort to change the list. There are three Valley schools that went year-round during the 1981-82 school year or later that are scheduled to be completely air-conditioned with the proposed allocation.

"We've got people in the community who know where they are on that list . . . and they are expecting certain things out of us now," Weintraub said. "If we go back on what we said, we would have an uproar from the schools. I certainly will not support it."

A change in the air-conditioning plan will require four votes from the full board. Goldberg said she has three votes now.

The $6.2-million allocation, which the board recommended without discussion, is part of a six-year program launched in 1983 to air-condition all classrooms in the district's 94 year-round schools. According to a district official, only eight of the 94 schools are fully air-conditioned, a situation that causes most of their 120,000 students to swelter in classrooms that often reach 100 degrees.

In the district's Southeast-area schools, teachers and students say it is common for classrooms to heat up to 90 degrees or more during summer months. The oppressive temperatures cause many students to suffer from nosebleeds, lethargy, nausea and dizziness, conditions that teachers say are not conducive to learning.

Schools in Southeast

The Southeast-area schools on the existing priority list that are due to get funds for some air conditioning are: Bryson Avenue School and South Gate Junior High School in South Gate; Corona Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue schools in Bell; Graham School in Los Angeles; Loma Vista Avenue School in Maywood; and Miles Avenue School and Huntington Park High School in Huntington Park. With the exception of Huntington Park High School, those schools have been on the year-round program since at least 1980. Huntington Park High School adopted the year-round calendar in 1981.

If the district sticks to its plan, only Bryson is scheduled for air-conditioning in all its classrooms by the end of the 1985-86 school year. But it is not certain that the project will be completed because the district is counting on receiving an additional $130,000 in state school construction funds to finish the job.

The other Southeast schools may have to wait another two to three years before all their classrooms are air-conditioned, according to the district's plan.

Kimball estimated that it will cost close to $18 million to completely air-condition all year-round classrooms by 1988. That figure includes $7.5 million in state school construction money that the district expects to receive over the next three years, he added.

But Kimball said the job could be finished sooner than 1988 if state aid is increased. That help may come from the Legislature, where a bill that would provide $25 million for cooling crowded year-round schools is making progress.

The proposed legislation, authored by Assemblyman Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles) and supported by United Teachers of Los Angeles, does not identify specific schools to receive the funds but authorizes the state Allocation Board to award grants based on climate and attendance.

The measure has passed the Assembly but faces an uncertain future in the Senate. It is opposed by the state Department of Finance.

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