Hundreds of Oklahoma City students start school with no air conditioning

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The first day of school in the state's largest district included problems with air conditioning systems in hundreds of classrooms.

The Oklahoma City Public School District tells NewsChannel 4 it is working on repairing the A/C in roughly 200 of its 4,000 rooms.

The problems affected several schools, including Taft Middle, F.D. Moon Elementary, Linwood Elementary and Jackson Middle School.

"Our crews have been out all morning, working pretty feverishly to get these schools and rooms back up and running," said district spokesman Mark Myers. "Summer in Oklahoma, we know it's going to be hot, so we need to make sure our school is as comfortable as possible."

Students in affected classrooms received cold water, but parents and volunteers said many of the buildings were still uncomfortable.

"Well, the kids are miserable," said Ann Storms, who volunteered to serve teachers an appreciation lunch. "Here they are their first day of school, and they can't even focus. One of the little guys says he just feels like he's going to pass out."

Some of the air conditioning units weren't working but, in other cases, Myers said the district didn't start cooling the buildings early enough.

In some cases, the A/C kicked on at 7:30 a.m., before the bell rang at 7:45.

OKCPS is trying to save money on its energy bill by running the air conditioning less - an idea Myers said the district will have to re-evaluate.

"So, obviously, we'll have to go back and look at if we should start the air conditioning around 6 in the morning, a little bit earlier to give [the building] some time to cool down," he said.

Another challenge, Myers said, is the district's decision to save $1 million by cutting 93 operations employees and reducing the hours for 13 others.

"A lot of our schools had maintenance on site [last year]," he said. "We don't have that anymore. So, schools have to put in a call for service, and then someone actually has to come out to the school."

Superintendent Aurora Lora said she may look into changing the OKCPS academic calendar to a more traditional schedule.

That would push the first day of school later and keep kids out of hot buildings.

Whatever the solution, volunteers like Kendra Argo know something has to be done to protect students.

"I have twins that are 8-and-a-half years old, and there's no way I would allow my kids to stay in that school right now with it being that hot," she said. "I think it's miserable, and you can't learn when it's miserable. You have to have facilities that not only provide an education but provide an environment where you could learn."