While the return to school usually signals the end of summer, someone forgot to tell Mother Nature.

Temperatures seem to have hovered more in the June and July ranges since students returned Aug. 18, an earlier start than past years.

With the earlier return, concerns had been voiced about the temperatures in the classrooms.

With that in mind, the Board of Education approved a five-year contract at its June 23 meeting for commercial air conditioning units and generators to be temporarily placed at Highland, Fishcreek, Echo Hills, Woodland and Riverview elementary schools and Lakeview Intermediate School. The units were placed the first week of school and will be removed at the end of this month. The annual cost is $92,450.

The units, supplied by Aggreko LLC, are powered by the generators and feed cooled air into the buildings through ductwork, according to the district's director of operations, Mark Fritz. The units run on diesel fuel and operate Monday through Friday between 5 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the outside temperature is above 73 degrees and/or the humidity inside reaches 55 percent.

"Our goal was to cool the hallways," said Fritz.

Fans placed in the hallways then blew the cool air into the classrooms.

Fritz said at an outside temperature of 78 degrees, it could rise to more than 85 degrees with 300 students and staff in the building. Now, if the thermometer reads 95 outside, the temperature is around 80 degrees with low humidity, he added.

And did the plan work?

According to the Woodland Elementary principal and a teacher, there was an obvious change in conditions at the school during the hot temperatures.

Principal Mary Lou Muckleroy told the Stow Sentry the AC units "made those really hot days much more bearable . . . especially in the hallways, it was much cooler than it ever had been."

She added the units were "a big improvement" dealing with humidity as well. "They took a lot of moisture out of the air."

Teacher Traci Hricik echoed the principal's observations. "It's been better than in years past. You could really tell the difference."

Fritz said this year, staff members who deal with migraines have not reported any problems. He added no students have needed to be sent home due to ill effects from heat.

Lakeview and Highland, which have second stories, each have units that pump the air into the stairwells upstairs, Fritz said. "We simply adjust the pressure of that unit to pump harder so that the force of the air is equal to the force of the air being pumped to the first floor."

"The air conditioners have been a tremendous success and I have been requested by several area superintendents to share that information with them and have done so," said Superintendent Tom Bratten. "Our students are learning during some incredibly hot times where in the past staff and students were doing what they could just to get by and not much learning was taking place as both tended to get sick, overheated, have headaches, etc. This has cured a lot of ills.

He added, "It doesn't supply room AC temps, but it does take the edge off to make it bearable enough to function effectively which is the goal."

Email: mmckenna@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9430