The temperature in upstairs classrooms at Check Elementary was about 85 degrees Tuesday morning, said Floyd County School Board Chairman James Ingram.
Students at Check Elementary, and all other Floyd County Public Schools, were sent home by noon for the third school day in a row due to the heat. The first day of school was Aug. 13.
Early dismissal, or “heat release” isn’t new for Floyd County Public Schools. Superintendent John Wheeler said he had to make the call last school year as well, despite efforts to keep rooms cool with fans and open windows.
Problems with air conditioning, ventilation and heating systems, have persisted in all five of Floyd County’s schools for years, with some schools lacking air conditioning systems completely because of their age.
Floyd County School Board Chairman James Ingram said he’s not sure when the boilers at Check Elementary, built in 1939, were last replaced. “I’m 50 years old, and I was a student at Check Elementary. The same boilers were there then,” Ingram said.
Floyd County and other localities across the state are dealing with aging school buildings. Some, notably in far Southwest Virginia, are struggling to pay for repairs or replacements. A push to direct more state funding to school facilities, led by state Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, did not gain traction in Richmond earlier this year.
Ingram said county officials decided they couldn’t wait for more help from the state. They’re now working toward a solution.
The Floyd County Board of Supervisors approved $6.5 million in funding earlier this year to cover the costs of adding air conditioning and replacing coal boilers in the school system, said County Administrator Terri Morris. The county put the air conditioning installation project out for bid this month, Morris said. The decision came after the county conducted feasibility studies.
The rural school system, with an enrollment of about 2,000 students, has a $23.4 million budget this year. State funding accounts for 54 percent of total revenue.
Floyd County hopes to improve all of its schools’ air conditioning by spring.
“The hope is we won’t be missing any school for heat next year,” Ingram said.