Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

Beating the heat

Thanks to air conditioning, Washington students no longer drag on hot days
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Sep 10, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Washington Elementary School teacher Shelbee Richards reads to her kindergarten class Tuesday on the first day of school in the Fairfield Community School District. Teachers and staff noticed that, even though it was hot outside, the students were chipper in the afternoon. Last year, the heat wore them out because the building lacked air conditioning.

Washington Elementary School was remodeled during the summer, and the improvements were evident on the first day of school Tuesday.


Air conditioning

The temperature had risen to 88 degrees that day. In past years, the heat would have zapped the students of their energy.

“A year ago, the kids would not have been as perky as they are today,” said Washington Principal Jeff Eeling on the first day of class. “The kids and teachers both would have been worn out.”

What is different about this year? Washington received a geothermal heating and air conditioning system. Before, only the office and a few select rooms had air conditioning, but most of the building did not. Now, each room has its own heating and cooling system. Preschool teacher Megan Hines remarked that the lack of air conditioning took a toll on the students, and she’s glad that problem is rectified.

“Last year, the little ones would wake up from a nap and be drenched in sweat,” she said.



Hines teaches in a preschool classroom that is twice as large as it was last year. A wall once separated it into two rooms, one of which was for preschool and the other was a computer lab. The district decided it no longer needed a computer lab because students can access iPads in their classrooms.

Hines said the new room is “big and fabulous.”

“It really gives the kids space to spread out,” she said. “Before, we crammed six adults and 20 kids into half this space.”


Fresh food

Another major change this year is that Washington is cooking its own meals for the first time in many years. Students have always eaten at the school, but until this year their meals were cooked at Fairfield Middle School. Keeping the food at precisely the right temperature during transport was tricky, and the time that elapsed between cooking it and serving it affected its quality.

“The broccoli was green today!” Eeling exclaimed, referring to how it often turned brown by the time it was served under the old setup. “It’s important to get the color right so the kids will eat it. It was beautiful.”

Eeling said he expects more students will choose to eat school lunches instead of bringing food from home now that they’ll be able to smell the food cooking during the day.

Washington secretary Heidi Frescoln said that, even if the students are too young to notice the change in the food, the teachers and staff can certainly tell the difference.

The school did not have to hire any additional staff. The district merely moved a cook who had been working at the middle school to Washington.

Lights throughout the building were switched to LED (light emitting diode), and the electrical system was upgraded to handle more power. Fairfield Community School District facilities director Jeff Koontz said the building was using the maximum amps available. That meant the school had to unplug a window air conditioner in order to use the kiln in the art room. The electrical upgrade was also necessary to accommodate the air conditioning units.

The gymnasium got a fresh coat of paint, and the parking lot southeast of the school sports 14 additional parking spots.

“This was the best first day of school I’ve had in my career,” Eeling said.

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