Watchdog 10: Columbus Schools Paying To Keep Empty Rooms Cool During Summer Months


School is out for the summer, and Columbus City Schools’ classrooms are empty until the fall.

For Bill Wood and his wife, it’s a good time to walk in his neighborhood near Alpine Elementary.

“Well, my wife and I have been walking a dog over at Alpine school every day for a long time, and after school was out, we noticed that four portables still had their air conditioners running every time we went by,” Wood said.

He and his wife got thinking about the issue.

“We figured if it was true here at Alpine, I wonder if it’s true all over the school system, and if so, so maybe somebody ought to know about it,” he said.

Wood turned to the school district and Watchdog 10.

Watchdog 10 found that the air conditioning units were running at Alpine elementary in three portable classrooms.

Alpine was not the only place Watchdog 10 found empty portable classrooms chilling.

The AC was on at one portable at Devonshire Elementary, too.

A Columbus City Schools spokesman said on July 9 that the air was on because custodians were working in the units at Alpine.

“They had been left on by the custodians when they were working in the portables,” spokesman Jeff Warner said. “They are supposed to be shut off when they have completed their work.”

The spokesman went on to say that the custodians have been reminded to turn off the units.

After Watchdog 10’s reminder, the units were turned off at Alpine.

District officials then offered another response to why the AC was on.

They said that the air conditioning was cranked up for the empty classrooms “because of high temperatures and high humidity to prevent mold and mildew.”

Watchdog 10 is still waiting for the June bill, but found that during the school year when students were housed in the three portables, it cost $460 to keep them cool.

Wood credits Watchdog 10 for getting results. He said the air conditioners were running “until recently, when you said something about it, and now they aren’t running at all.”

Watchdog 10 requested the June bill and will update the story with the new information when it is available.  

In the meantime, the district says it’s trying to be as efficient as possible.  Officials also said that they have to protect the district’s assets by sometimes leaving the air conditioning on.  The district is trying to address the problem with custodians and the central office is now monitoring the air conditioning use.

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