(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A government watchdog agency estimated that in the summer of 2020, more than 40 percent of school districts needed HVAC upgrades or replacements.
The St. Joseph School District used to be one of them.
Now it’s quickly making its way off of that list.
Heating, cooling, and light upgrades nearing the final phase for the St. Joseph School District’s 20 plus buildings.
"We're excited to finally step into the next century, you know?" Gabe Edgar, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations for the St. Joseph School District said.
Most people may not describe hvac and light fixes as "exciting.”
They are not the type of "fancy upgrades" you would talk about to impress your friends.
But for schools it's a big deal, and costs big bucks.
“Whenever you're doing something at your house it may be $4-500 dollars but when you're talking about $30 million dollars I think it would be hard to sell,” Edgar said.
Even though the school board and district staff have talked about the need for years, it was too big of an expense.
Putting air conditioning or lighting in schools isn't exactly popular with voters.
“$30 million dollars for HVAC. Are you crazy? I think that would be the question that they would come to us about,” Edgar said.
The school district and other area schools learned that the hard way in recent elections.
Now the district, like many across the country, had a chance to do it.
The federal Covid relief checks are in the millions for the district and can only be used for things like upgrading ventilation.
“It does provide a different learning environment not only for the kids but for the taxpayers in the district to come and watch games and feel comfortable. You know you come to a volleyball game when it's August 22 and it's 100 degrees outside, well it's 100 degrees inside,” Edgar said.
The district says that if it wasn't for the federal dollars – this kind of project would take more than a decade.
"We plan to be done by mid-2023 with phase 3 which will be a total of two and a half years which is pretty amazing,” Edgar said.
Potentially save the district millions in energy saving costs.
That's something the district hopes will impress you and your friends.
The district is currently finishing up Phase 2 of the project which includes HVAC and lighting upgrades to the gyms and auditoriums of the three high schools as well as Hillyard Technical Center.
The first phase of upgrades happened at the elementary and middle schools.