The bulk of the McPherson USD 418 school board meeting last night was spent reviewing a proposal addressing the current condition of the heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in McPherson’s schools and what it might cost to update them.
The McPherson school board is starting to explore options to proactively replace aging units before systems break down and are no longer able to be repaired.
Some of the computer systems controlling the HVAC units are so old that parts to repair them are no longer available. McPherson’s Director of Operations for the school buildings and grounds Sheldon Anderson cited one of many examples of where it’s just a matter of time before something breaks down for good.
“The control system for Eisenhower (EES) and the ’95 addition of Washington (WES) is not supported anymore, so whenever that goes out, [that means] a new system,” explained Anderson. “So we’re running on kind of borrowed time already.”
Paul Bowers, a member of Anderson’s building and grounds team, addressed what he sees as the most urgent concern at the McPherson High School (MHS).
“Mainly the boilers is the big issue right now,” said Bowers. “We’re on real thin ice on that. We can’t even find motors anymore for those that we use. And when we do, it’s a $1,000 every time we find a motor. And then we’re putting it back in an old piece of equipment that just rattles and shakes.
“It was a good design back in its time, but it’s so far behind now,” Bowers explained. “The efficiency value of it …. we’re wasting a lot of energy using that old equipment.”
It may save the school district money in the long run to install new HVAC systems in McPherson’s public schools before the old units break down completely and force an immediate replacement. However, the school board members are still gathering information and aren’t yet ready to move forward with a plan.
“We’re not going to be ready to make any commitment to this currently,” said Superintendent Mark Crawford. “Part of the reason is because we don’t know what’s happening in Topeka. So we’re not quite ready to commit to anything, but yet at the same time we need to understand what our needs are.”
A list of urgent HVAC school building needs as expressed by the USD 418 Facilities Team:
1. McPherson Middle School: Replace oldest and problematic rooftop HVAC units.
1. EES & WES: Replace domestic hot water systems; install water softeners.
3. MHS: Replace water softener; HVAC system; cooling tower.
4. MHS, Lincoln & Roosevelt: Replace aging rooftop HVAC units.
Last night the school board gave audience for almost two hours to a proposal from a team representing 360 Energy Engineers, a company that has contracted for this type of work with several other Kansas school districts. Their team inspected each McPherson school and provided a comprehensive proposal addressing the various HVAC issues in detail and what it would take to update and replace the old systems at varying degrees of expense.
Considering the state of disrepair of many of the systems, Superintendent Crawford and the other board members give all the credit to Director Anderson and his building and grounds team for keeping the old units running as well as they have for so long.
Replacing and modernizing the heating and air conditioning systems in all of the McPherson schools that need updating would cost about $8 million, based on the 360 Energy Engineer's proposal.
The school board will be discussing their options and priorities and, of course, waiting to see what happens with the Kansas Legislature and the order from the state Supreme Court to equalize funding among school districts, and how that ruling may ultimately affect USD 418.