Dist. 127 wants air at schools

By Laura Bollin

Worth School District 127 will begin a study in January that will look at the possibility of upgrading the its buildings’ electrical systems and adding air conditioning at Worth Elementary and Worthwoods schools.

District 127 business manager Phil Wegele said a portion of the district’s 2012-13 budget, which has $12.2 million in revenues and $11.8 million in expenditures, would go toward funding the projects. District officials will not know the cost of the proposed projects until the study is complete. No money was allocated toward such work when the budget was approved, Wegele said.

“Our major issue is that our buildings are aging,” said District 127 Superintendent Rita Wojtylewski. “Worth Elementary School has a cornerstone that says 1915. It is a historical building for Worth, but it has old technology in terms of the way you heat that building and has no air conditioning, so you cannot cool it.”

Some District 127 schools were almost too hot for students last summer, one of the hottest on record in the Chicago area, Wojtylewski said. The schools without air conditioning are Worth Elementary, 11158 S. Oak Park Ave. and Worthwoods, 11000 S. Oketo Ave. Worth-Ridge School, which serves as the district’s administrative center, and Worth Junior High School both have air conditioning.

“This summer was very, very hot, and the only building that has air conditioning is the [Worth] junior high,” Wojtylewski said.

Window-mounted air conditioning units cannot be installed because doing so would violate state school building codes, she said, explaining that such units prevent the proper exchange of air from outside.

“We discovered we don’t have sufficient electricity to even plug in an air conditioning unit,” Wojtylewski said. “The board is going to do a study of our electricity in January to see how we can do upgrades. We will have to put in new electrical panels and redistribute electricity throughout the building.”

The district’s projected $300,000 surplus will go toward teachers’ salaries, supplies and computer technology. Teachers’ salaries this school year total $6.4 million, down about $100,000 from last year, said Wegele. The retirement of several teachers helped reduce the payroll, he added.

The district is expecting to receive $1.5 million in state funding, including $944,328 in grants and general state aid for special education, bilingual program, transportation for students with special needs, and early childhood education programs.