Saturday, February 25, 2006

Remodeling can be tricky

The Science Goddess talked yesterday about bursting bubbles of expectation for a science department she's working closely with, and reminded me of what happened when my classroom was remodeled to accomodate thirty computers.

That she can say this:

The science group did end up lowering their expectations a bit (no ice-maker), but the total was still around $1 million.

tells me that they're at least getting some input into what happens, which is more than I had, but when she says this:

Further discussions were had about reusing more of the HVAC and electrical systems, along with some other possible cuts.

I REALLY start remembering how my retrofit shook out.

It seems that the specs for a computer lab (which my room was, in effect, becoming) called for a separate HVAC unit. To avoid that expense, the district engineering team called it simply a lab, as in science lab or reading lab or whatever, which let them leave the AC as it was.

Now I'm not about to start complaining about being an English teacher in what amounts to a dedicated writing/multimedia/internet research lab. That part of it was magical.

The magic disappeared, though, as soon as air-conditioning season started, which, in southern Nevada, is almost here again. Oh, it was possible to set the thermostat low enough to get my room and the adjacent newly-retrofitted computer classroom comfortable. But there were three additional classrooms on the same original HVAC unit, so if the labs were comfortable, the other three teachers had to wear sweaters and jackets to teach while it was in the 80-110 degree range outside. Net result? We sweated and/or dozed in the labs. We got tubs of ice from the kind kitchen manager to set in front of industrial fans that precluded lecture or discussion. We improvised every way we could think of to approach comfort.

It took four years of bitching from me, my students and their parents, and the principal(s) to get the district to pony up for a $7000 (installed) auxiliary heat pump , which (barely) took the edge off and leaked oil on the counter below it. Because of the oil leak, our building engineer shut the unit off at the breaker, so we were back to square one for another year until the powers that be decided that maybe the room needed its own completely separate unit after all.

As much in favor as I am of reusing what can be retained, for reasons beyond simple cost-cutting, I'd add my cautionary note: be careful of what you expect the old hardware to do if you make substantial changes to the loads placed upon it.

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