HVAC problems persist at Carrollton Elementary

Published 5:12 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2023

A costly replacement of the pipes in Carrollton Elementary’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system last year hasn’t resolved the fluctuating indoor temperatures students and staff experience throughout the day.

But Isle of Wight County Schools believes it’s identified the root of the problem.

“You can go into one classroom, literally, and it can be cool, and next door it can be humid and hot, and you step into the foyer where the main office is, it’s extremely cool,” Superintendent Theo Cramer told county supervisors at a Sept. 7 joint meeting of the two boards.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

According to Deputy Superintendent Chris Coleman, the issue dates to the school’s 1993 construction.

The school, he said, was designed with a four-pipe system linking its boilers and chillers that is intended to allow the heat and air-conditioning to operate at the same time. When the network of pipes reaches the system’s main box, it narrows to two pipes before expanding back to four, resulting in the system being unable to maintain a consistent temperature across the school.

“When we turn on the A/C, that’s all they feel – AC,” Coleman said. “When we turn on the heat, that’s all they feel – the hot water coming through the pipes.”

The narrowing of the system, ironically, was intended as a cost-saving measure, Coleman said. Now, he’s received quotes as high as $3.7 million to replace the entire system.

The school division had received a roughly $1 million HVAC grant through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds allocated to Isle of Wight from federal pandemic relief acts in 2020 and 2021. According to Coleman, Isle of Wight ended up spending the entire amount in 2022 on replacing the HVAC system’s leaky pipes.

A committee consisting of Supervisors Dick Grice and Rudolph Jefferson and School Board members Jason Maresh and Denise Tynes has been tasked with finding ways to pay for the expense.

The committee, formed during the Sept. 7 meeting, will also be tasked with finding an alternative source of funding to pay for the planned renovation of two wings of the old Hardy Elementary School that are slated to become the division’s new central office and warehouse.