40 HVAC units need upgrades in Richmond schools

RPS air conditioning units in need of repair

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There’s a passionate plea from a Richmond School Board member to do what she says is only right to ensure students are learning in adequate school buildings.

When temperatures begin to rise, there are often concerns about functioning air conditioning units inside of classrooms. Liz Doerr says that shouldn’t be the case.

Many have seen the protests and pleas from students to invest in RPS’ aging school buildings. Whether it’s deteriorating walls, sub par bathrooms or a lack of AC or heat, the calls have been loud and strong.

“It’s actually happened several times this winter,” Doerr said. "You could see photos of children wearing jackets huddled around a space heater. That’s just unacceptable.”

With the dogs days of summer approaching, many are concerned with the opposite problem - hot classrooms due to malfunctioning AC units.

"I’ve heard of plenty of teachers experiencing heating and cooling issues,” Doerr said.

There may be a good reason for that. Doerr says RPS spends about $0.30 per square foot for maintenance when it’s ideal to spend $3 to $4. She adds there are 40 HVAC units the school district is working on getting up to par.

"RPS has historically not had enough maintenance dollars to adequately invest in its facilities,” Doerr said.

The goal is to change that. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s proposed budget calls for the additional funding to begin meeting RPS’ maintenance needs. Right now, Richmond City Council members are giving that proposal a close look before the new fiscal year begins in July.

"I would encourage them to either accept the mayor’s proposal and/or find a different way to fund these critical projects,” Doerr said.

Otherwise, she says the situation could become dire.

"(Where) we (will) have to literally select which schools get heat and which schools don’t,” Doerr said.

In a separate RPS issue unfolding now, sources have confirmed 10 principals are on their way out and that a recruiter is being brought in to find new principals.

Neither the district nor Doerr would comment since that is a personnel matter.

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