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‘Sweating bullets:’ Multiple CMS schools experiencing HVAC issues inside of school buildings

CMS staff say they visited at least six schools with HVAC issues on Wednesday
Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 6:37 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The rising summer temperatures are a pain outdoors, but some Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are seeing high temperatures in the building too.

Wednesday, Aug. 25 was the first day of school for more than 143,000 CMS students. For the first time since March 2020, classrooms were at full capacity. Students are learning in person five days a week.

Multiple parents and some staff members contacted WBTV saying their schools had little to no A/C leading up to the first day.

During a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, school leaders addressed the concerns and said they visited six to eight schools experiencing HVAC issues.

“We do know the heat is stressing our systems so we expect there will be HVAC issues,” said Superintendent Earnest Winston. “Our staff is working diligently to respond to address those issues.”

CMS parent Ashlee Carnes says she noticed the A/C wasn’t working properly at her daughter’s school, Long Creek Elementary, during the open house earlier this week.

“Once we attended the open house we were pretty much all surprised to find out the air wasn’t working because we weren’t notified beforehand so we were all in there sweating bullets,” Carnes said.

CMS staff said technicians are visiting the schools. CMS staff say the A/C wasn’t working at full capacity in some hallways, classrooms, and cafeterias.

CMS is also experiencing a shortage of HVAC employees which they are looking to hire and recruit with incentives up to $1,000.

Carnes says it was cooler Wednesday morning when she dropped her daughter off but she worries the air quality won’t be consistent.

“It doesn’t bode for a great situation,” Carnes said.

Winston says they are experiencing staff shortages and supply chain issues for materials but assures staff are working as fast as they can so everyone can breathe easier.

“Certainly it means that the response may be a bit longer than it typically is. We have worked with some other agencies to bring in some staffing to address those challenges that we have and we’ll continue to do that,” Winston said.

CMS is also continuing its efforts for installing needlepoint bipolar ionization air purification systems.

Winston says staff is working to complete the NPBI projects at 40 schools.

At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, CMS provided updates on the NPBI projects:

  • Devices have been installed at 27 schools
  • Devices have been installed at the four new CMS schools
  • Installation is underway at four schools
  • Devices are scheduled for installation at five schools in September
  • Devices are scheduled for installation at two administrative sites in September

Carnes is hoping workers can get the A/C fixed as soon as possible.

“I’m hoping that the air stays on for their comfort and so they can actually sit there and focus and learn and not worry about being hot,” Carnes said.

Despite the stuffiness, Carnes looks forward to how being in-person full time will help her daughter this school year.

“Obviously consistency is key with kids and them succeeding,” Carnes said.

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