Emergency delared at Sixth Ward as air conditioning system falters

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 20, 2000

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / September 20, 2000

VACHERIE – The St. James Parish School Board declared the Sixth WardElementary School air conditioning system in a condition of emergency last week. The majority of the school has been run in the past by two condensingunits. One of the units has been out of operation over five years, said SixthWard principal Judy Ezidore. The remaining unit has begun to fail, operatingat around 50 percent capacity and less.

Early in the school year the heatwave overloaded the system and blew out the remaining condenser, said Ezidore. The school began an early releaseschedule and brought in floor fans, which were not very successful since the school has no opening windows.

The school system maintenance crew worked over the weekend and repaired the condenser, said Ezidore. With one it’s bearable, but it is still not good,said Jim Mitchell, director of budgets for operating and maintenance.

The condensing units are original to the school.

“We’ve gotten a full life out of them,” added Mitchell. The school boardauthorized the requesting of bids for the replacement of the condensers and the cost of upgrading to a newer chiller system.

The condenser units work the same as a home air conditioner, but on a larger scale, said Ted Beaullieu, engineering consultant. The freon circulates fromoutside the school into the building where it cools the air. A blower thencirculates the air through the building.

In a chiller system, the freon is replaced by water. Chilled water is cooledoutside and pumped inside, where the air is cooled by the water and circulated through the building. The freon stays outside rather than beingpumped into the school.

“Water is a natural medium and easier to work with,” said Beaullieu. Freon,as a gas, expands and contracts and can turn to a liquid, all conditions more difficult to regulate than with chilled water.

Mitchell expects to soon have the bids for replacing the condensers, as well the estimated cost of replacing them with the chiller system. With approvalfrom the school board they will be ready to move on the project in a month, said Mitchell.

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