When 10 school buildings came down with sick air-conditioning systems this summer, Toledo Public Schools officials first wondered if some sort of conspiracy or sabotage was at play.
Most of the schools have been repaired over the past two weeks, but Byrnedale Middle and Spring Elementary schools are still waiting for parts and repairs. And it's hot.
Toledo Board of Education member Lisa Sobecki said the district has brought in fans and extra water and are making sure the children are well-hydrated. The windows have been open during class, she said.
Six of the schools are fixed, at least temporarily, one was under repair Wednesday, and three others were waiting for parts to complete the fixes. There are 57 schools in the district.
The board and Superintendent Jerome Pecko say they're trying to figure out what happened, why board members didn't hear about the problems until last month, and what is causing malfunctions.
The air-conditioning saga punctuates problems that can arise when organizations shift leadership and important communication breaks down.
The widespread problems weren't reported to a centralized authority in a timely way because the business office and its leadership was dismantled from two key retirements. The office is still without a chief.
Other high-level district jobs, such as chief of staff, were also left vacant this summer because of resignations, retirements, and budget cuts.
The former superintendent also retired. Mr. Pecko started Aug. 2.
In many cases, the problems were focused in specific parts of buildings, such as in the administration offices at the new Woodward High School, Mr. Pecko said.
In some of the schools, "it has been warm," he said. But there are no dangerous temperatures or unhealthy situations, he said.
"It's unacceptable what's been going on with this," he said.
Ms. Sobecki, who is chairman of the board's buildings committee, said she started hearing about problems about three weeks ago.
Ms. Sobecki said she first heard about broken tiles at Start High School, where the air conditioning had malfunctioned. The tiles became loose and cracked because of the high heat. It has been repaired.
"I'm not micromanaging to the point where I'm operating the air-conditioning units," she said. "There have been a lot of people in different jobs, and people may not have been aware of the chains of command."
The school system provided The Blade with some paperwork describing the problems but did not have cost estimates available.
Some of the units broke down because of age or other issues, such as a lightning strike, officials said.
Most of the air-conditioning problems were at newer buildings constructed under a state bond program. The air conditioning in those schools are controlled by a central command center at a TPS administrative building.
Mr. Pecko, school contractors, and building architects are planning to meet this week to investigate three possible causes for problems at the newer buildings, which will determine who is responsible for the cost of repairs and how to proceed with long-term fixes.
•One possible reason for a majority of the problems at newer buildings is because someone with TPS might have turned up the thermostat over the summer.
Everyone adjusts their thermostats at home, but it's a no-no for a complex heating, ventilation, and air-conditiong, or HVAC, network, Mr. Pecko said. And it says so in the operating manual, he said.
•The HVAC units at each new building could be the wrong size for the design, causing the units to either work too hard or not hard enough. That design incompatibility can cause the units to break down, Mr. Pecko said.
•The equipment in the new schools could be defective and be subject to some sort of recall. School officials plan to look at new schools in other districts that use the same equipment.
One of the schools, Glendale-Feilbach Elementary, was older and its unit broke down from old age, Ms. Sobecki said.
The school board approved an emergency $40,000 appropriation from the district's capital fund.
And a chiller at Byrnedale was struck by lightning, Mr. Pecko said. That repair, about $10,000, will probably be covered by insurance, he said.
"We're trying to get everything fixed. Our due diligence about how it happened will come at the end," Mr. Pecko said. "We're still in the research mode. If it's operator error, then we're going to have to take the heat ourselves."
Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick at: