School’s unbearably hot classrooms point to ‘desperate need’ for upgrades, chairwoman says

Uncomfortably hot temperatures in some areas of Lexington’s Henry Clay High School forced students to move rooms and “complicated” the beginning of the semester, the principal told parents Friday.

“In areas of that building where heat can become unbearable, staff have moved their classes to other rooms in the building that are experiencing cooler temperatures,” Principal Paul Little explained Friday in a letter to families, “but this can only occur when another room is available, so it isn’t always an option.”

“We are sharing our fans to improve air circulation, and students are advised to dress for the different temperatures in their classrooms,” Little said.

The air conditioning breakdowns illustrate why the school is in major need of renovation, district officials said Friday.

New Fayette school board chairwoman Stephanie Spires addressed the issue on Facebook, thanking a teacher for sharing reports of students becoming ill from the heat.

“Tates Creek, Henry Clay, and Dunbar are all in desperate need of facility upgrades,” Spires said in a post.

“Unfortunately many of our schools were historically neglected, but in the past 10 years we have played a lot of catch up,” Spires said.

“We recently announced that we do have a plan to move forward with renovating the high schools throughout the district,” she said.

Little said staff have been “working hard to mitigate the extremes.”

He said when a teacher or student notifies a school administrator that a classroom is uncomfortable, district maintenance staff is immediately contacted.

Over the course of the week, “six different rooftop air conditioning units” at the school went down, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall told the Herald-Leader Friday night.

“Our maintenance team was on site every day into the evening addressing the issues as they arose. As of (Friday) morning, all units had been repaired,” Deffendall said.

Henry Clay is on the district’s current list of facilities in need of a major renovation to address systems replacements such as air conditioning, Deffendall said.

Henry Clay is the second school in the district to experience environmental problems this calendar year.

In January, teachers and families complained that mold was creating a safety hazard at Tates Creek High School.

A design consultant will be hired this month to launch an estimated $16 million renovation of Tates Creek High School, which was built in 1965 and last updated in 1993, Myron Thompson, chief operating officer for Fayette County Public Schools said in August.

Officials have not specifically said when Henry Clay would be renovated.

“Unexpected maintenance issues like this are one of the reasons it is critical for (Fayette County Public Schools) to maintain a contingency fund to cover the cost of emergencies,” Deffendall said.

On Monday, some people at a public hearing said that the district’s contingency fund should be used to pay for school safety improvements instead of the property tax increase the board approved in July.

That’s when Fayette County Public School board members voted to add a 5-cent property tax for every $100 of property value.