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Over a dozen Wake County Public Schools are dealing with air conditioning issues

An air conditioner unit at one of the school within Wake County Public School System.
Nate Slavik
Wake County Public School System
An air conditioner unit at a school within the Wake County Public School System.

Since the start of the school year, Wake County Public School’s air conditioning systems have not worked to their full capacity to combat the heat.

Wake County Officials said 14 schools have closed or released students and staff early due to air conditioning issues.

The air conditioning units at those schools, which include Apex Friendship, Knightdale and South Garner, are not working to their full capacity.

Mark Strickland, the Chief of Facilities and Operations for Wake County Public Schools, said that the schools are typically set to an indoor temperature of 73 degrees Fahrenheit, and can fluctuate two degrees up or down. If the indoor temperature runs above 75 degrees, officials close the school.

"When the temperatures are in the high 90s and the heat indexes are higher than that, it's kind of tough to keep the buildings cool when you're working with a limited capacity of equipment," he said.

Low staffing is among several reasons why the schools are having air conditioning issues, Strickland said.

“We are understaffed in some departments, particularly HVAC, heating, ventilation and air conditioning,” he said. “We have got to do a better job or need to do a more complete job of maintaining our systems and we're working on that.”

Meanwhile, Wake County Public Schools has a program called “Life Cycle,” which allows equipment to be replaced at the end of its expiration. It's part of a plan to address the air conditioning problems.

“So we have a defined plan of replacing chillers, which are essentially the things that run the air conditioners at the school,” Strickland said. “We have a three-year look ahead, but part of the problem is, we've got around 300 chillers in the district.”

Strickland foresees more air conditioning issues in the future, but for now they are currently outsourcing local vendors to fix or replace the air conditioning.

Sharryse Piggott is WUNC’s PM Reporter.
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