CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Expectations of wicked winter weather had Kanawha County School officials hurrying Monday to ready facilities for the cold.
"Today we've been rushing around to make sure all the heat and everything has been turned on," maintenance director Terry Hollandsworth said.
As Hurricane Sandy barreled toward the East Coast Monday, Hollandsworth and his team prepared for the rain and snow it could bring. He said crews were busy all day checking on school heating systems, climbing onto roofs to look for leaks and getting trucks ready in case they're needed to clear ice.
School heating systems - especially at some of the county's older facilities - can't be easily changed by a simple turn of the thermostat knob. Many of the systems in older schools are a two-pipe system: the school can either have heat or air conditioning, but not both.
"That means from now until spring, they won't have air conditioning," Hollandsworth said. He said no one had complained about the switch.
School officials could turn the air conditioning back on, but Facilities Director Chuck Wilson said the county generally waits until spring to make the switch due to a lack of manpower.
Despite recent issues with boilers in some schools, Wilson said there is at least one working boiler at every school. Carver Career and Technical Education Center is down one boiler and Wilson said a few of the building's shops might be a little chilly, but heat from the rest of the building can be pumped into the area.
Improving the boilers is the second part of a four-phase energy improvement plan the county began in the summer, Wilson said. The plan is a part of a $20 million energy improvement effort implemented as a part of the excess levy voters approved in May.
Although the new tax rate doesn't take effect until fiscal year 2014, Johnson Controls has helped to start work now through a deferred payment system. The school system can start to pay that money back with the start of the new levy, Superintendent Ron Duerring told the Daily Mail in May.
So far work has been done on 66 schools, Wilson said. The first part of those improvements involved installing and tweaking system controls. The new systems allow heat or air conditioning at the same time and provide that energy more efficiently, but Wilson said it's going to take some time to make sure the systems are working properly.
The county is about three weeks behind schedule on the boilers, but Wilson said the work should be wrapped up by the end of the week. Officials will immediately start working on the air conditioning phase once the boilers are done, he said. The fourth and final phase is more improvements to the heating systems, Wilson said.
The entire process is slated to take 18 months to complete, Wilson said.
In the meantime, Hollandsworth said crews would be all over the county today making sure buildings are warm and roofs aren't leaking. He asked schools to alert him about any problems as early as possible.