Haverhill Schools Face Millions in Air Conditioning Installations, Replacements

Silver Hill Elementary School (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

The Haverhill School Committee received an eye-opening report last Thursday, suggesting millions of dollars in air conditioning upgrades and installations are required in the city’s public schools.

Haverhill’s Facilities Director Stephen D. Dorrance said the recent heatwave made it clear aging cooling systems in most school buildings are not up to the task with classrooms in the Silver Hill Elementary school reaching temperatures of more than 90 degrees. He told the Committee most of the A/C units have already served their useful life and, in fact, use a coolant called R22, which is actually no longer legal and available.

“We have units that are simply not salvageable. Therefore, all of these R22 units have to be disposed of,” he said.

Additionally, Dorrance said most of those units were never even designed to cool the classrooms.

“They do the cafeteria. They do the gym. They do common hallways. They do four interior classrooms, but they have never been designed to do the classrooms,” he explained.

Dorrance said 10 units in all must be replaced at a cost of $700-800,000 apiece. He said, in addition, getting cool air into the classrooms requires a system of mini-splits which cost about $3,000 per classroom with 40 classrooms per school.

Dorrance also told the Committee it was his opinion that, as they consider a new Dr. Albert B. Consentino School, they look closely at making it a zero-net energy building.

Dorrance did have some good news, telling members the high school gym roof project is about two months ahead of schedule and he is hopeful the project will be completed by the end of September.

In another matter, the Committee approved sending a Statement of Interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, seeking state help repairing or replacing the John Greenleaf Whittier School. Members voted of 6-0 with Mayor James J. Fiorentini, chairman, absent.

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