Salt Lake City schoolchildren won't have to sweat in late-summer classroom swelters in the future.
Following years of periodic public pleas, the Salt Lake City Board of Education Tuesday unanimously voted to air condition schools."Air conditioning is a part of life now," said Board Vice President Diane Barlow. "The majority of the people talking to me believe it is necessary."
The decision kills a $7,000 proposed survey of constituents on the issue.
But the board in coming weeks must pinpoint funding for the $18 million project that is expected to drain another $1.8 million in annual operation costs.
The board also must determine an implementation timeline. District staff have recommended a 15-year plan, which would best fit with planned seismic retrofits and cost the least.
The air-conditioning issue boiled last fall in several Wasatch Front school districts as the mercury reached 100 degrees in some classrooms. Some teachers and students got sick in the heat.
Nine of Salt Lake district's 36 schools are air-conditioned, as are district offices.
In a study session last month, board members discussed details of implementing air conditioning, which may delay seismic retrofits and require annual property tax increases estimated at $35 on a $100,000 home for a five-year plan, $20 for a 10-year plan or $15 for a 15-year plan.
A bond election also may be needed. The district now has $40 million in bonds it could sell for one-time funding.
Parents addressed the heat as a health issue, still simmering amid freezing February temperatures.
Pediatrician Shireen Mooers, a member of the Indian Hills PTA, cited literature published by the American Academy of Pediatricians that states learning is adversely affected by heat. She urged swift board action to stop any more school days from wasting away.
"Parents are really tired of waiting on this issue," she said. "I urge you to be advocates for children . . . ask yourself what is the cost of not doing this."
Student board member Chris Hill praised the board's action.
"Right now, it's cooler, it's nice. But I know it's going to be hot soon," the East High senior said. "I'm glad the board made the decision tonight to air-condition the schools. The students will be happy."