McDermott’s Message – November 06, 2013
From Campbell High School, an estimated 500 students came to the State Capitol to lobby elected officials for air conditioning. The rally was a field trip led by teacher and crusader for better learning conditions, Mr. Corey Rosenlee. Students and faculty are making a yearlong effort to encourage funding for air conditioning for their oven-like classrooms. Principal Naomi Takamori was also in attendance showing support for the students. The young men and women were extremely well behaved and are a credit to their school. I cannot thank the ubiquitous Mr. Corey Rosenlee enough for his continual hard work and committed leadership on this issue.
“It gets like 90 degrees in the classroom,” said junior Precious Guieb who was in attendance at the Capitol. “It makes you feel like fainting or falling asleep.”
Upon taking office, I knew resolving the acquisition of air conditioning at Campbell High was going to be a top priority. As the father of a 10th grader enrolled there, I have more than a professional interest. That said, I soon discovered that the economic downturn suspended the work of electrical upgrades. Only a dozen of Hawaii’s 255 public school campuses have central air conditioning. Hawaii’s schools are on average 65 years old and many them, including Campbell High, cannot handle the electrical load for air conditioning without first installing structural upgrades.
This past legislative session, working with Representative Cabanilla and Senator Espero, we were able to secure 1 million dollars toward more electrical work – that is the good news. The bad news is that we still need about another 1.5 million on top of that to finish the job. Then we can actively engage in the quest for air-conditioning equipment to improve the learning environment.
To this end, I have asked the Department of Education as part of their photovoltaic initiatives, to combine the air conditioning with the photovoltaic and simply increase the payout due the contractor over a period of years. This would require no up-front cost to taxpayers and the contractor would be paid by money currently being used for fossil fuel power generation. A win-win solution I think.
However, the Department of Education has told me it is not that easy but I shall not give up. I am going to pressure the Department of Education to make a change-order to the contract as it relates to Campbell High. In the master agreement, I assume each school is a particular job and an individual project. It is estimated that the air conditioning for Campbell will cost the taxpayers another 10 million on top of the upgrades to the electrical system. This price tag seems extraordinarily high to me. I will work to lower the cost as it is obviously one of the stumbling blocks for initiating air conditioning. We shall get there; we will see this through. We will find the resources to give the students a comfortable space to excel academically.
Re. McDermott at podium addressing Campbell High Students