The heating and cooling system at The Plains Elementary School in The Plains had been functioning in an “on-again, off-again” fashion for more than a week as of this Tuesday, Athens City School Supt. Tom Gibbs confirmed that day, and some parents were starting to complain about the lack of air conditioning adversely affecting their children who attend that school.

Gibbs said in an email Tuesday, however, that as of that afternoon the HVAC system was up and running.

Parent Ashley Dixon posted in the West Side Athens Facebook page Tuesday that she was upset that parents have not been informed about the situation.

“I picked my son up early just last week, and when he arrived to the office, his face was very red and his hair was soaked with sweat,” Dixon wrote. “I figured he has just been outside or in gym class so I asked him if that was the case and he replied, ‘no, I was just in my classroom lying on my backpack.’”

Dixon expressed concern with the lack of air conditioning, especially when temperatures reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside Tuesday (and appeared to be on track for the same on Wednesday).

Gibbs said the school district has “many aging systems in our buildings,” and the heating and cooling system at The Plains Elementary is “one of those.

“The system has been on-again off-again for more than a week now. We’ve had both our own maintenance staff and contractors from Johnson-Controls responding,” Gibbs wrote. “As of this moment, it is functioning. This is one of the many examples of why we needed to make a significant investment in our facilities. I am hopeful we can keep systems operating for the next couple of years as we are building our new facilities.”

Gibbs was referring to the district’s plans to rebuild many of its facilities, including The Plains Elementary, a facility plan that district voters agreed to fund in last year’s general election.

The NEWS previously reported that the Athens City School Board approved a timeline for the first stage of construction for the district’s big facilities master plan in January 2019. That plan means building two new pre-kindergarten through third-grade buildings on the sites of East and Morrison-Gordon elementary schools. That timeline is as follows:

• Construction of two new pre-kindergarten through third-grade buildings will begin in winter of the 2019-2020 school year and likely will be completed before fall 2020-2021.

• Renovation of The Plains Elementary School building would begin in summer 2021 and likely be completed by summer 2022.

During this period, updates and safety modifications at Athens Middle School would be completed this year and next summer.

Some in response to Dixon’s comment on Facebook said they felt as if the lack of A/C was a minor issue.

“Never had A/C in school 20 years ago and I survived,” one man wrote. “Do you think these kids all have A/C at home?”

“In modern society, most people do have air conditioning in their home,” Dixon responded. “When you went to school 20 years ago, that was the norm but not in today’s society and this puts a major strain on these children; they are not used to that.”

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