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HIDOE makes progress with energy efficient strategies for cooling schools

Portable ACs installed as temporary supplemental cooling in some of Hawaii's hottest classrooms. Photo: HIDOE

The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) has been working to fast track heat-relief initiatives through its Heat Abatement Program. During the last three years, schools across the state were evaluated for various cooling options including air conditioning (AC), ceiling fans, nighttime heat flushing fans, solar light, trees, heat reflective paint, and more.

“The department has made every effort to find solutions to cooling our classrooms in that is not only cost-efficient but also energy efficient,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “Our Heat Abatement program includes long-term plans for our schools as well as addressing the high-priority classrooms quickly. We want to thank the legislature for funding this effort to accomplish this goal.”

In 2016, Governor David Ige signed Act 47, which appropriated $100 million to fund equipment and installation costs for AC and other cooling measures. Progress from the department’s Heat Abatement program in conjunction with the Governor’s Cool Classrooms initiative includes:

  • 456 classroom AC units have been installed;
  • 1,062 AC units have been ordered;
  • 1,062 units are out to bid;
  • 201 photovoltaic AC units installed; and
  • 402 portable AC units were distributed to the hottest classrooms statewide.

Phase II of the Heat Abatement program is already underway with an emphasis on implementing passive cooling projects. To date, the following projects have been completed:

  • 461 portable classrooms have been covered with heat reflective material;
  • Trees planted at numerous campuses;
  • 4 buildings have installed or are currently installing awnings;
  • 139 classrooms had ceiling fans installed; in addition, large diameter fans are being installed in cafeteria dining rooms.

“Despite a few setbacks, which included high bid prices due to Hawaii’s construction; the department has worked diligently to come up with solutions that have kept our heat abatement efforts moving forward. Our push for better prices has allowed us to cool more classrooms,” added Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson.

At James Campbell High School (JCHS), third on the heat abatement priority list, the Department has made significant upgrades to lower temperatures in many of the classrooms. The completed and ongoing improvements include:

  • Installation of new tinted windows;
  • Air conditioning;
  • Nighttime heat flushing fans;
  • Ceiling fans;
  • Progress in the awning installation over O Building’s courtyard;
  • Solar AC and battery units for the portable classrooms;
  • Upcoming fan installation in the cafeteria; and
  • Covered walkways project that will begin early next year.

JCHS is also undergoing other facility renovations and construction from a 30-classroom building currently in the design phase to restroom renovations in O and D buildings, and new portables and reroofing on I Building.

“We have seen a positive change in the campus culture because of these facility improvements,” shared Principal Jon Henry Lee. “The school community recognizes the investment the legislature and department have made towards enhancing the academic experience at our school, and we look forward to seeing the excitement of our students and staff when they return in August.”  

For more information about HIDOE’s Heat Abatement program and continued updates about projects going on statewide, visit bit.ly/heatabatement. A cost breakdown of the AC projects is available here, bit.ly/2skoSGz.

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