Air conditioning comes to Cam High


Photo by: Serena Sotelo

New air conditioning units hum and buzz next to the M building. The units cost approximately $170,000 to install.

After numerous calls for solutions to elevated temperatures during Cam High’s warmer months, 12 air conditioning units were installed in the L-wing–but not without problems.

The humming machines, located behind the adjacent M-wing, use existing ventilation to cool/heat the air. Each classroom in the L-wing contains a small control panel that can adjust the temperature of the system.

Since installation in February, several classrooms in the L-building reported various functional issues with the units. “The first day the air conditioners were in, teachers could change the settings,” said math teacher Ms. Jennifer Raymond. “But a couple days after that, we couldn’t anymore, and it’s been back and forth since then.”

Temperature settings are restricted to a range defined by the OUHSD using a larger central control panel. “[The temperature range] exists to protect the equipment, so the machines do not overwork,” said Mrs. Mary Ann Larrieu, OUHSD Energy Conservation Specialist. “When it is cold, the temperature is set at 74 degrees Fahrenheit. When it is hot, the temperature is set at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.”

However, according to Mrs. Katie Frederick, math teacher, the temperature range is prone to malfunctions. She recounted instances of the heater running on warmer days and the AC running in cooler weather.

“The AC units are very spotty,” said Frederick. “In fact, Mr. Wilson [health teacher] and I come to school everyday wondering what kind of temperature we will have in our classrooms. One day, it was kind of getting more on the warm side, and I kept turning the air conditioner on, and it kept shutting off. I’m pretty sure that the district had turned off the main control so the teachers couldn’t turn the air on.”

Some L-wing teachers believe they would benefit from clearer instructions on operating the system. “When the unit were first installed, they didn’t have any instructions on what to do and what not to do,” said AVID teacher Mr. Miguel Sanchez. “So I emailed the secretary, and she said there are no instructions.”

The district plans to set up communication lines to permit online inspections of the air conditioners, which will display data and allow the technicians to fix any errors precisely and as soon as possible, said Larrieu. “The new equipment is still being fine tuned. The machine that controls two-thirds of the classes was not working right in hot weather. The fine-tuning is taking longer than we thought, but the contractors really care, and have been on call and working many hours to adjust the system,” she said.

The administration opted to install new air conditioning exclusively in the L-wing due to limitations in the budget. “We can only do one building, and the L building is the warmest one in the school,” said Principal Dr. Kim Stephenson.

After initial approval by the OUHSD (Oxnard Union High School District) in the summer, the district choice contractor, West Coast Air Conditioning, finished installing the conditioning system in February of this year, at a total cost which West Coast Air Conditioning estimated at $170,000, the lowest of 5 separate contractor bids.

Cam High’s new air conditioners were funded by ‘Routine Restricted Maintenance’ funding, which is given to the OUHSD annually by the state. “Each year the Oxnard Union High School District Board of Trustees approves a list of projects to be done from these funds,” said OUHSD Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Mr. Steve Dickinson. “The ACHS AC installation was one of those projects for 2015-2016.”

Rheka Kishida, sophomore, said that the new installation positively impacts the learning environment at Cam High. “Having air conditioning in the classroom has made a huge difference. It helps me focus more because it’s easier to work in a cooler area,” she said. “It’s going to be really great around the summer when it gets really hot.”

The district administration has considered additional changes, aimed primarily at combating Cam High’s heat problem. “Our heat task force has met several times, and they have come up with some ideas, which they will be presenting in the next meeting,” said Stephenson. Some of the proposed changes are providing canopy, shades, misters, and tinted windows that insulate ultraviolet rays.

Installation of additional units in other Cam High buildings remains uncertain. “The chance of installing other AC units at Cam High is 50-50 if the Board says yes,” said Dickinson. “[So] no guarantees.”

Kristi Chu contributed to this story.