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Downers Grove District 58 clarifies Pierce Downer School air-conditioning claim

DOWNERS GROVE – Officials in Downers Grove Grade School District 58 have shed some light on a resident’s claim that air conditioning was installed but never used for the Pierce Downer Elementary School addition.

“We recently received some questions regarding air conditioning at Pierce Downer School, and we wanted to provide some clarification and background for you,” Superintendent Kari Cremascoli and Pierce Downer Principal Christine Collins said in an Aug. 30 letter to parents.

The letter came two days after a post on the Friends of District 58 in Downers Grove Facebook page stated air conditioning was installed on the roof of the school’s addition in 2013 but never used.

“When Lester [Elementary School] turned on the AC in their new addition, it was discovered that Pierce Downer had a similar system that had been sitting on the roof since 2013,” the Facebook post stated.

District 58 officials on Aug. 27 cut the ribbon on the addition at Lester Elementary School. The addition, which features three new classrooms, ADA-compliant bathrooms and a flexible resource space, includes air conditioning.

The Facebook post did not offer a source for the information. However, it generated numerous responses, many critical of the district and the administration. The post was published by Kylie Spahn, a frequent critic of the administration and Board of Education whose children do not attend District 58 schools. Spahn would not reveal the source of her information.

The letter sent to Pierce Downer parents sought to clarify the matter.

The letter stated that in 2013, the district worked with an engineer to estimate the cost of installing air conditioning in all district schools. The cost estimate at the time was $16 million, which the district could not afford, according to the letter.

"When the Pierce Downer School addition was built later in 2013, District 58 thoughtfully considered whether air conditioning could be installed school wide as part of the project; however, school wide air conditioning was beyond the scope and budget of the project at that time," the letter stated.

Instead, the architect "designed the project with specifications for a rooftop unit to provide heat for the addition with an opportunity for future air conditioning capabilities," according to the letter.

The unit has been used for heat since its installation, the letter stated.

The letter added the district "revisited its Pierce Downer air conditioning conversation this summer" and re-evaluated the viability of making the air conditioning elements functional in the rooftop unit.

"After review, it was determined that the needed additional mechanical work could be completed within budget this year. The rooftop unit now provides air conditioning as well as heat and offers the opportunity for additional cooling areas on hot days, such as the ones we experienced earlier this week," the letter stated.

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