- Associated Press - Thursday, August 18, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Kanawha County’s school board has received complaints about the early August school start date and air conditioning failures.

“If animals were left in a car in these temperatures, I guarantee someone would be calling the police,” said Dinah Adkins, co-president of the county’s chapter of the West Virginia Education Association teachers union. “Our children and our employees deserve better.”

Last Friday, the school system closed seven schools, including four of its eight high schools, due to air conditioning and power failures, The Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/2bgrxe2) reported. That meant about one in 10 Kanawha public schools were closed that day. Four of the county’s schools were closed Monday due to similar issues.

School board member Ryan White said at Wednesday’s board meeting that the school system should look into doing another audit of its maintenance needs.

“I understand that we’re not going to be able to pay for everything that’s on there,” White said. “But if we don’t know what we have, then I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice. We can’t put our heads in the sand.”

School system officials on Wednesday couldn’t say exactly when a maintenance audit was last completed. Maintenance director Terry Hollandsworth said the state Department of Education did one five to seven years ago.

Kanawha schools Superintendent Ron Duerring has said the county has old AC systems and not enough money to replace them or make major upgrades.

Several people attending Wednesday night’s meeting complained about the AC problems and what they said was a school year that started too early this summer. Most schools started classes Aug. 8 in Kanawha County.

“There are teachers in full body sweat, children complaining of headaches and breathing,” Antonia Vaughn told the board. “Classrooms are overloaded, the buses are overloaded, deodorant only goes so far, and that’s just as far as education and thinking and paying attention goes when you’re in a hot environment.”

She suggested starting school later, when there’s less heat and humidity, and said winter and Thanksgiving breaks could be shortened to do so. This school year’s calendar gives a week off around Thanksgiving and two weeks off around Christmas.

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