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Parents Try to Convince District 109 to Act on AC

District 109 board meeting packed with residents lobbying for improved air quality in local schools.

“The time to act is now,” Deerfield mom Wendy Apple told Board of Education members at Monday night’s meeting.

Apple along with several other residents attended to lobby for improved air quality in the district’s schools that lack air conditioning. 

Ever since her daughter started attending Walden Elementary this school year, her asthma has gotten worse, Apple said. 

“My third-grade daughter came out of school concerned that she literally couldn't breathe,” the worried mother said in recalling a hot school day in late August.

Apple said she viewed the problem as alarming since her daughter rarely had to use an inhaler to help improve her breathing during the months away from school.

“Some parents and I began to research the problem and found that this situation indeed goes way beyond mere discomfort,” she added.

Through her research, Apple said she discovered that the “air quality at school decreases with hot indoor temperatures because the heat and sunlight are essentially cooking the air along with all the chemical compounds lingering within it."

"These chemicals then are breathed in by our children, teachers and staff,” she explained in noting the risk.

Earlier:  

In the wake of these findings, Parents Responsibly Organizing for Air Conditioning (PRO-AC) was created. According to Apple, it is “the first organized movement to improve the air quality [and] temperature in District 109 schools that is compromising our children's health, safety and academic performance."

"Our sole intention is to help ensure the district pursue modern, ecologically sound solutions that meet the physical and environmental requirements of our building code.” she said.

Since its creation recently, PRO-AC parents have bombarded the district with calls and e-mails about their concerns. The effort included Monday's large turnout at the school board meeting.

“This is an issue that can no longer be ignored,” Scott Kluge, a parent of a  student, said during the public comment period. He said his son's asthma has gotten more severe since the start of school. 

“The hardest part of the job was watching the kids cook,” said retired  teacher Bonnie Meyers, who recalled her years working in District 109. “We cannot let our kids and teachers and staff go back to that kind of heat.”

In addition to those supporters, PRO-AC brought in an expert, Dr. Paul Detjen, whose practice in Kenilworth handles internal medicine as well as allergic and immunological medicine. 

Detjen said cases of asthma were on the rise nationwide, noting their severity had increased and pointing to poor air quality as a leading contributor to asthma.

“The standard of care is to build schools with air conditioning,” he said.

In response, District 109's Steve Schwartz updated parents on facility improvements that had occurred since the 2005 referendum. Schwartz, who heads the Facility Development Committee (FDC), explained that before the referendum vote, the district conducted a survey to identify school needs and determine which were priorities for residents.

According to Schwartz, air conditioning was “low on the list.” Instead, $4 million in other renovations were undertaken and completed. 

In 2008, the district also conducted a study to determine the feasibility of adding air conditioning to District 109 schools. The results put an $8.8 million price tag on installing central air conditioning.

Schwartz said his committee’s next move was to develop a long-range facility plan, which would include another look at air conditioning as well as other issues. The FDC has scheduled an October meeting with architects to start discussing the plan.

Apple stressed to the board that PRO-AC wanted to be involved in the process.

PRO-AC can have a positive, productive role in the process by lending time and support to collaborate with the board in its pursuit of AC efficiently and cost effectively without the need for a referendum or tax increase,” she said.

Apple also mentioned that she along with other parents would be willing to start raising funds to assist with the improvements.

“I know you’re passionate and I think it’s wonderful,” board president Ellen London said at the end of discussions. “We are going to go ahead, study the issue and try to come up with a solution in the shortest time that we can.”

It was a response from district officials that Apple was thankful to hear.

“PRO-AC is encouraged that the board expressed an interest in working with its architecture firm to explore AC for its un-air conditioned schools,” she said. “We hope potential solutions and costs can be collected and shared by the next FDC meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for October."

RonnieTheLimoDriver September 23, 2011 at 01:17 PM
How would the 8.8 million be paid for? So far since the school year has started, we have not had many days where the temp was much above 80. We are talking about 8.8 million for a few weeks each year. Unless the district plans to move to an all year schedule this is a luxury that the community cannot afford at this time, especially since it looks like we are headed for another recession.
NB September 23, 2011 at 03:04 PM
The sense of entitlement in this town is amazing. We're in the middle of a recession, we have an unprecedented number of homes in foreclosure, houses are upside down, people earn less money and are hanging on by a thread, we have multiple taxing bodies coming after us for more money....and these folks want AC in their schools. While I really do support the schools, I have to say, no, not right now. Let's make sure the roofs don't leak, everything is up to code, the teacher morale is OK, and leave it there. It's enough already with the special bonds and drip drip drip of rising property taxes. Unless you want another house in foreclosure, that is....
DeerfieldResident September 23, 2011 at 04:11 PM
The number of days during the school year when air conditioning is truly needed is so small that this expense is not warranted. I agree completely with the two other comments. This is not an expense that we can incur at this point. The $8.8 million to install air conditioning is not the only expense. Don't forget about the energy required to power those air conditioning units. I hope this knee-jerk reaction to a few hot days dies down quickly.
RonnieTheLimoDriver September 23, 2011 at 04:47 PM
There are a few very fortunate people in this town who some how have avoided the impact of the global recession, and what looks to be global recession II. It looks like they still have money to burn. The rest of us, who are barely getting by, are stuck paying for the grandiose ideas of the fortunate few. This sort of thinking on the national level is what got this county into trouble. Deerfield has been lucky that its government can afford its bills, up to this point. However, if a vocal minority keeps pushing for more spending, we will soon be in the red as well. Perhaps one of the super rich people who support this project can just make a 8 million dollar donation if they think its so important. Otherwise, get you hands out of my pocket.
RonnieTheLimoDriver September 23, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Maybe the district could have paid for this if they hadnt just added a new building to the administration center.
Claudia September 23, 2011 at 05:36 PM
"Sense of entitlement" is right on. We ALL survived without AC in schools. There are many more important issues that take precedence right now. Get out of your Deerfield bubble and take a look around.
HRS September 23, 2011 at 09:14 PM
For the record, at no time did anybody from PRO-AC or the other community members at the meeting suggest that a referendum be constructed to help fund air conditioning in our schools. This is not about entitlement or checkbooks, it's about serious life-safety issues endangering our district's students and staff. We firmly believe that this issue can only be solved by thoughtful community members collaborating with our school district and hardworking board of education members.
RonnieTheLimoDriver September 24, 2011 at 03:06 AM
So how do you expect this to be paid for? Why is this a life safety issue now but it has not been for the past 50 years? Sorry but I don't buy it. How many students or staff have suffered heat stroke at the schools? I attended DF elementary, jr high, high schools, and then college out of state in the midwest, and at none of those facilities did I have air conditioning. I survived just fine.
NB September 24, 2011 at 12:08 PM
We're not talking about a referendum, and I certainly didn't think you were asking for one. But that money to install, pay for the electricity, and then maintain has to come from somewhere. You can't take it from the teachers. If you eliminate programs, other people will squawk. So where's it going to come from. Thoughtful? A budget is a budget. Safety? I can appreciate the concern for the children who are susceptible to heat or have allergies. But seriously. Look around your neighborhood. How many vacant homes are there? In mine - right in the center of town, there are four in a two block span. The big thing to do right now would not be to add to infrastructure, but to make sure the current infrastructure, both physical and academic, is up to par.
IHE September 24, 2011 at 12:18 PM
I question if those who made negative comments about Pro AC have children attending Deerfield schools. I do and was heart broken watching the kids walk out of school on hot days. They were not well and many concerned parents rushed their kids to the doctor out of concern for their health. Yes, there are only a few hot days each year; however, the climate has changed and so has our air quality. It is not about more than just being hot. Pro AC is not asking Deerfield residents to pay to air condition the schools. They were only asking for permission to explore other options on how to fund this enormous project. I attended the meeting and this was made VERY clear.
RonnieTheLimoDriver September 24, 2011 at 01:28 PM
No, that’s not true. Not all of us feel that coddling our children is a good idea, and we dont rush our children to the doctor for every little thing. This is all part of the wussification of America that has taken place and resulted in spoiled children who are ill-qualified to deal with the real world. I am not one of those climate change deniers, so I agree that overall temperatures have increased. However, thus far the impact on actual temperatures is minor, in the neighborhood of 1-2 degrees. You also have swings both way. Example, this fall has been below normal, not above. Finally, on air quality. Deerfield has much better air quality than most places, being that its far from any heavy industry. Again, if you are not asking DF residents to pay, who is going to pay? Do you mean private donations? If not, then I am against it. If the district uses its operating budget or reserves, residents are still paying. If you somehow get a grant from the feds or state (unlikely) we, the tax payers, are still paying for it. This is a project that should be explored during prosperous times, not during a period of austerity.
IHE September 24, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Ronnie - have seen any Deerfield children exit a school building on a 95 degree day? If you have, you might change your tune. How dare you accuse concerned parents of being "wusses"? Better yet, do you work in an office with air conditioning? How do you justify the new district offices having air conditioning? Do you think the board even considered building without air conditioning? Pro AC is NOT asking residents to pay and they are NOT asking for a referendum. They are ONLY asking for the opportunity to explore other ways to pay for it. Please learn the facts before being so negative.
RonnieTheLimoDriver September 24, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Yes, I have. And, yes, I did it myself, and I survived. As did thousands of others the district has educated over the years. How many 95 degree days are there during the school year. 2 or 3? Is that worth 8.5 million? I dont justify the district offices having a/c. There shouldn’t be new district offices built during a global recession. Most of America is wusses now, which is why we are getting are butts handed to us on the global competitive marketplace. Again, Im asking you, how is this going to be paid for if residents dont pay? Do you not understand how the district's finances work?
IHE September 24, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Do you understand how life works? There are many fortunate residents in Deerfield who are willing to donate their money and time to fundraise to make life better for students and teachers. If this will not cost you a penny, why be against it? BTW, the $8.5 million was ONE bid. Pro AC is willing to do all of the work - they are asking nothing of you and only a few moments of the school board's time. Pro AC knows this will not be easy but they are willing to give it a try which is more than can be said for the negative uneducated comments posted on this site.

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