Southern Local schools resume all – day classes following HVAC issue

SALINEVILLE — Students at Southern Local School District resumed full class days on Monday following three early dismissals due to air conditioning issues.

Superintendent Tom Cunningham said the 18-year-old HVAC unit failed the previous Wednesday following a suspected ground shift which caused a connector to break.

“The maintenance supervisor noticed a coolant leak and we discovered the pipes were lifted out of the ground. We had a blockage and had to shut the system down,” Cunningham explained.

Weather temperatures hovered around the 90-degree mark and left the PreK-12 complex even warmer, especially since the windows do not fully open and leaving doors ajar results in school safety issues.

The estimated 950 students were dismissed after lunch while afternoon preschool classes were canceled and sporting events set in the SLHS gym were moved to other venues.

Cunningham added that pipes and the connector needed replaced with the latter having to be manufactured, while parts were shipped from Cleveland and California.

The humid air and high temperatures forced administrators to send students home early as crews worked to finish the repairs. Trane representatives were then called in to perform a final inspection before the system went back into operation. Cunningham initially hoped to resume a full day that Friday, but the building was still too warm to conduct classes despite efforts to cool it overnight.

“Some rooms were 85 to 87 degrees because of the humidity, so it wasn’t conducive,” he continued.

Board members agreed to dismiss students out of concern that they could become ill from the heat.

One major plus is that lower weekend temperatures improved conditions and allowed the school hours to return to normal. Costs were still being gathered on the work but Cunningham said the incident hasn’t impacted calamity days. Still, officials will keep watch during winter weather days to see if it will lead to the use of blizzard bags or extra days on the school calendar.