Williams Elementary to receive new HVAC with fed funds
WILLIAMS, Ariz. — With the latest round of federal emergency COVID-19 relief dollars for public education, Williams Unified School District has approved up to $1.1 million toward replacing the aging heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Williams Elementary-Middle School.
At the Nov. 11 WUSD Governing Board meeting, Superintendent Eric Evans discussed the school’s needs and detailed a proposal submitted by Pueblo Mechanical to upgrade the system at the school.
“We know the units in that building are 18 years old and have an average life expectancy of 15 years,” Evans said. “The outside air dampers are currently manual so bringing in fresh air is a concern and a problem, and we are seeing really high CO2 levels in our classrooms.”
Evans said teachers are concerned with the effects of ineffectual heating and cooling in the building.
“As we know students experience discomfort, sleepiness, headaches, stomachaches and decreased academic performance,” he said. “We know one of the biggest complaints at WEMS is where the sun is — one side of the hall is hot and other side is freezing and then the sun keeps moving and it switches.”
In addition to heating and cooling, Evans said fresh air and circulation are another concern.
“One of our must haves with this projects is the outside air unit capability — we need fresh air,” he said.
Williams High School needs
In addition to the HVAC system at WEMS, the governing board is hoping to obtain money from the Arizona School Facilities Board (SFB) to install a new HVAC system at Williams High School.
“For a while if a school was above a certain elevation they wouldn’t support HVAC,” said WUSD Governing Board Member Ann Wells. “But COVID changed that because it’s not so much about elevation and temperature as it is about indoor air quality now.”
If WUSD can use SFB funds at WHS, the school can save the federal money for other projects, Evans said.
Currently, administrators at the high school have set up monitors to record temperatures and carbon dioxide levels to submit to SFB.
“We have a bunch of monitors that chart the parts per million and classroom temperatures that we can download to a graph or spreadsheet,” Evans said. “We have had them in the gym during volleyball season and we’re seeing 1,400 ppm in some of our places.”
The district has been concerned about air quality and temperatures at Williams High School for many years.
“I think its appropriate for us to do it right and do it well so we can get a good 15, 18 years out of this and satisfy our teachers, parents and kids who have endured miserable Augusts, Septembers and Mays when it’s not very comfortable,” Evans said.
The district also is hoping to benefit from the energy efficiency of newer systems, Wells said.
“Having an HVAC system that isn’t 15 years old is going to provide a lot more energy efficiency which will help with our utility bills,” she said.
WUSD has already utilized money from the first round of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, distributed in three phases –ESSER 1, ESSER 2 and ESSER 3.
WUSD was allocated $202,784 in ESSER 1 which was spent on pandemic expenses last year, including a UV light sanitation system used in WUSD classrooms. The district has also received $1.1 million in ESSER 2 funds, and $2.23 million in ESSER funds.
With those funds, the district is not only replacing the WEMS HVAC system, but has purchased two sports-activity buses and two yellow school buses, all enhanced with air filtration systems and air conditioning. Money has also been used to fund additional paraprofessionals in K-3 classrooms and upgrade outdoor facilities at Williams High School, Evans said.
"I am proud to say we are making great investments in our schools with projects and assets that will yield 10-20 years of use for our district," Evans said. "We are also making investments academically."
Wells said the upgrades at WUSD have been needed for a long time.
“It’s been decades of not getting any money for anything, it’s been a real nice thing that we are able to do these upgrades," she said. "It’s for the betterment of the students.”