What started as some parental concern raised early in the academic year about hot classrooms in schools without central air conditioning has developed into a full-fledged effort by Lake Zurich Unit District 95 to gain more input on the issue.
Through an online survey, District 95 seeks suggestions from all parents and staff on what to do when the classrooms are deemed too steamy. A committee of district administrators, teachers and board members began looking at creation of a formal heat policy in October, not long after the parents voiced concern.
Superintendent Michael Egan tapped School Perceptions LLC of Slinger, Wis., to handle the survey for the 5,779-student district. The response deadline is Thursday.
"I wanted to conduct the survey so I could be sure that the heat emergency procedure that we are developing is meeting the needs of the students, teachers and parents of our school communities," Egan said in an email to the Daily Herald.
Although one question attempts to gauge potential support for a tax-increase referendum to air-condition all schools, Egan said it is on the survey "for informational purposes only."
Five of eight District 95 schools are not centrally air-conditioned. Unlike some school systems, District 95 didn't send students home early or cancel classes when a heat wave hit soon after the 2013-14 academic season started but tried to provide comfort with large fans, ice pops and other measures.
Parent Andrea Trudeau of Kildeer launched an online petition to push for air conditioning after most of the week of Aug. 26 featured temperatures in the 90s.
She and others addressed the issue during public comment time at a September board meeting.
Trudeau said she's "incredibly grateful" that District 95 ordered the survey and is ready to finalize a heat plan.
"With the school year extended due to the cold days we experienced, it is vital that this plan be in place this spring, as promised, in order to make health and safety of students and staff a priority," Trudeau said.
Eight questions are posed in the survey that offers respondents a chance to comment and provides information from the Illinois State Board of Education on a school district's options when classrooms are considered too hot.
One question asks about possible support for a procedure to cancel school only at non-air-conditioned buildings "during days with unusually high heat and humidity." The survey also inquires about family preference on advance notice regarding school cancellations.
Parents and staff are asked to select from four potential heat-beating options they'd be willing to back. The choices include amending the calendar to start school at a later date and student dismissal after five hours of instruction.
District 95 board President Tony Pietro said the feedback will be valuable in the decision-making process before the 2014-15 academic season. He said the survey results are slated for discussion at the school board's April 24 meeting.
"I think we just wanted to get the climate of the community, to see what people are thinking," Pietro said.
An air conditioning feasibility study ordered by District 95 shows it could cost $19 million to $25 million to chill the five schools. The report was prepared by RuckPate Architecture of Barrington, with assistance from Schaumburg-based 20/10 Engineering Group.
Respondents may select from five answers on the final question asking if they likely would support a referendum to add air conditioning throughout District 95. The survey states it could cost residents an extra $28.45 annually in property tax for every $100,000 in market value if the project costs $20 million.
Pietro said he'd expect officials to take notice if there is overwhelming support for a ballot measure on funding air conditioning for the five buildings.
He said the district would hold forums and receive feedback from the entire community before any move to place a tax-increase question on the ballot.
Trudeau contends any referendum should be about more than air conditioning because the RuckPate report noted a need to maintain or upgrade heating and ventilation systems in three of the five schools without central air.
The buildings without central air conditioning are Seth Paine Elementary School, Isaac Fox Elementary School, May Whitney Elementary School, Middle School South and Sarah Adams Elementary School, all in Lake Zurich.
Middle School North and Spencer Loomis Elementary School, both in Hawthorn Woods, and Lake Zurich High School are the three buildings with air conditioning.
Efforts to keep students comfortable in the August heat included rotating them into limited air-conditioned areas in the five schools, using large fans, opening windows for cross ventilation, and making cold water and ice pops available for hydration.
It's not just parents who have issued heat concerns. Emails regarding hot classrooms were sent to the superintendent and building union representatives by Kathy Perkins, president of the Lake Zurich Education Association and an instructor at Sarah Adams.