Air-Conditioning Will Be Curriculum Helper

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This spring, four Anaheim Union district high schools have more to look forward to than summer vacation.

Air-conditioning installation will soon begin at Loara, Katella, Gilbert and Hope high schools.

Because Anaheim's schools were built more than 30 years ago, most district classrooms have gone without it. Students and teachers will have to endure a bit more heat before the installations are complete in September, just the thought of cool air is a relief.

"This is a real welcome addition to our schools," said John Tillis, chairman of the business department at Loara High.

Tillis said temperatures reaching over 100 degrees in the late spring and early fall last year were disruptive. "Especially in the afternoon, you could really tell the difference," Tillis said. "Students are quiet. It's difficult for them to concentrate and do their work."

Beyond bringing relief to sweaty, sleepy bodies, Tillis is pleased he'll no longer have to worry about his department's 110 computers shutting down on hot days.

Officials expect to pay for the $17-million air-conditioning project from a pool of funds that includes $27 million from a financing method similar to a bond, called certificates of participation, or COP, and anticipated state matching funds. The rest of the funds will be used on a list of projects that the district will prioritize later.

Officials hope these first schools prove only the beginning of a cooler era. They hope to install air-conditioning at all the district's schools.

However, some trustees question the financing that made the air-conditioning possible. In August the board agreed to use the certificates of participation, but Trustee Alexandria Coronado worries that the district can't afford the approximately $1.4-million annual payments on the certificates. She says the district has limited funds and needs to make sure it won't jeopardize necessities such as teacher hires and raises.

But Trustee Harald G. Martin says COP makes sense for the district. He said voters' rejection of a bond for the Anaheim City School District in 1998 made it unlikely that the high school district could pass one. And he said air-conditioning installation is important. "When I go to the second floor of Katella High School and there are kids sitting there with sweat dripping off their faces, there's not a whole lot of learning going on," Martin said.

John Larner, assistant superintendent of facilities management and planning for the district, said he also hopes to use COP and state matching funds for other improvements.

Judy Silber can be reached at (714) 966-5988.

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