School Board Wants Options for Putting Air Conditioning in All School Gyms

MCPS to commission assessment of cooling systems across the district


Published:

VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Montgomery County Public Schools has decided to figure out what it would take to provide air conditioning in every school gymnasium.

School board member Jill Ortman-Fouse raised the issue at a Thursday evening meeting and asked MCPS staff to gather options for expanding the cooling systems, especially in elementary schools.

“For the P.E. classes, they become very overheated. The cultural night performances held there, fifth-grade promotions, summer programs—it can be profoundly uncomfortable,” she said.

A resolution passed by the school board directed MCPS staff to return by November with ideas for a multiyear plan to address the lack of air conditioning in gyms. 

James Song, MCPS director of facilities management, said he’ll need to start the process with an assessment of the situation at various schools. Enhancing the air conditioning in some schools might require adding structural support to the roof so it can bear extra weight. In other places, improving the electrical system might be necessary, Song explained.

Modifications at some schools might be fairly easy, while the work at others could be “very, very expensive,” Song said.

“In order to have a rollout implementation plan, we need to do an assessment phase to understand what this would require,” he said.

MCPS will likely ask an outside contractor to perform the review and will need the school board to approve funding for the work, he added.

Initially, Ortman-Fouse’s resolution focused on elementary schools, and she said the school system could look at secondary schools at a later time. But Song said it’s more cost-efficient to evaluate all schools at once.

Ortman-Fouse’s initiative was supported by all school board members but one—President Michael Durso, who voiced cost concerns.

“We’re talking about a tremendous expense, even if we were talking about 10 or 20 schools,” he said.

Song said the assessment itself won’t be particularly costly, although the actual improvements could come with a hefty price tag.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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