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7 Newport-Mesa schools to get air conditioning in summer 2019 project

7 Newport-Mesa schools to get air conditioning in summer 2019 project
Students read last year at Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach, one of seven Newport-Mesa Unified schools slated to receive air conditioning in summer 2019. (File Photo)

Plans are moving forward to install air conditioning at seven Newport-Mesa Unified School District campuses.

Without discussion, the school board Tuesday unanimously approved a $974,200 contract with Anaheim-based Optimum Energy Design. The firm will provide mechanical, engineering, structural and architectural services for new heating, ventilation and cooling units at Harbor View, Mariners, Newport, Newport Heights and Whittier elementary schools and Ensign Intermediate and Back Bay High schools. The project will cover administrative offices, classrooms, libraries and other rooms such as teachers’ lounges, according to the district.

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A construction contract will be approved at a future board meeting, the district said. The work is expected to be done in summer 2019.

Six other schools — Davis Magnet, College Park, Wilson, Pomona, Kaiser and Woodland — will have air conditioning installed next summer, according to the district.

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Seventeen of Newport-Mesa’s 32 schools currently have air conditioning, and the district plans to install it at the rest of the schools, starting with those most inland, officials said.

The majority of Newport-Mesa’s schools are not completely air conditioned because they were built before air conditioning was widely used. However, district officials have said many schools have air-conditioned spaces.

Air conditioning resurfaced as a topic of discussion after a heat wave in October brought record temperatures.

Some parents and teachers have urged trustees to consider implementing minimum-day school schedules on hot days and speeding up the process of installing air conditioning.

Supt. Fred Navarro, at his first board meeting since suffering an injury in August, said Tuesday that the district supported staff in restructuring its budget in 2013 to begin phasing in air conditioning units, noting it couldn’t tap into bond funds for the project and instead had to dip into savings and other resources.

The district has spent about $25 million to $30 million on air conditioning, he said.

Units at four more schools would have been completed this year, Navarro said, but a redesign for “safer installations” pushed back the project, with approval from teachers at those sites.

All schools are expected to have air conditioning by 2019 unless there is a financial problem, Navarro said.

Costa Mesa and Newport Harbor high schools, which currently have partial air conditioning, are slated for completion in 2021 because those sites require “major installations,” he said.

Committee to review feedback on starting school year earlier

In other business Tuesday, trustees were updated on the process for possibly changing the school calendar to start the school year up to three weeks before Labor Day.

Kurt Suhr, district director of elementary education, said the district’s calendar committee will reconvene Monday to review feedback from surveys, community meetings and emails.

A committee recommendation to change the calendar would need board approval and would go to bargaining between Newport-Mesa and its teachers union, Suhr said. The earliest it could take effect is the 2019-20 school year, he said.

Five high school seniors in the district spoke in favor of the proposed calendar shift, citing additional time to prepare for Advanced Placement exams.

Estancia High

An air-quality report on Estancia High School by Arcadia-based consultant Executive Environmental is expected for completion by late January, according to Tim Marsh, district administrative director of facilities and support services.

Since the installation of more-sensitive equipment, officials have tracked minor odors, and one room with stronger readings that an industrial hygienist is looking into, Marsh said.

Teachers have been complaining for years about foul odors in the Costa Mesa school’s science wing.

Thirty-four locations on campus have been inspected and found up to code, Marsh said. Five areas, including the boys’ locker room, will be inspected during winter break.

Britt Dowdy, president of the teachers union, commended the district for “going above the level” of inspection that teachers asked for earlier this year.

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