AUSTIN (KXAN) – School may be out for summer, but work is just getting started at some Austin ISD campuses, as the district tackles heating, ventilation, and air conditioning repairs or improvement projects.
Over the last few years, KXAN investigators have been tracking tips from parents, teachers and students about hot classrooms and other maintenance issues.
Leadership has repeatedly pointed to aging facilities in need of new HVAC equipment or systems, rather than just repairs.
“Some of them — the original structures are over 100 years old. That means that equipment ages out and it’s failing, and it’s no longer a maintenance issue. It is a replacement issue,” said Michael Mann, AISD’s executive director of construction management.
The district gave KXAN records in the spring showing more than 4,700 work orders had been filed across 130 campuses from July 2022 to February 2023. However, just 29 campuses accounted for more than half of the work orders filed in that time frame.
Mann emphasized the bond passed by voters last fall would deliver some long-term solutions for many campuses with recurring HVAC issues.
The district has scheduled at least 25 full or partial “modernizations” to begin in the next year, meaning those schools would be fully replaced or see major renovations. According to the district’s website, the modernization projects will add “flexible spaces designed to support a range of learning styles, collaboration areas and modern, adaptable furniture.”
In addition to the modernization projects, the bond provided for hundreds of other “targeted” projects at other campuses – including plumbing, electric, heating and air conditioning improvements.
“We are planning long-range. We do know that there are these issues, and we’re doing everything we can to mitigate all of those so that every student has a warm, safe, welcoming environment,” he said.
The district sometimes relies on rental equipment, such as temporary chillers, to cool classrooms when there are issues, and Mann said that rental equipment can cost the district “tens of thousands of dollars a month.”
He said they will prioritize work at around 10 to 15 campuses with that rental equipment or in need of an “easier” replacement project this summer, in order to free up those dollars on the district’s maintenance and operations budget.