APS struggles to keep hot classrooms cool amid supply chain delays

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Albuquerque Public School District is no stranger to issues with heating and cooling. Officials confirmed multiple A/C units went out around this time last year, forcing some teachers to hold classes outdoors.               

This year, even functioning units are not effectively cooling rooms because of recent rain and rising humidity. Officials told KOB 4 they are concerned because some students return to classes this week.

“About 62% of the district is evaporative cooling and air wash systems,” said John Dufay, executive director of operations for APS. “What happens with evaporative cooling is you’re always going to be putting humidity into the classroom. So whatever you have outside, you’re putting a lot more inside classroom.”

He explained that even if a swamp cooler system is functioning, it cannot cool a room down when it is humid outside.               

“So we put in fans and other cooling—types of portable coolers, we bought probably every cooler in this town,” he said. “We also have units that are that are older, we’ve been replacing all summer.”

Dufay said APS ordered enough equipment for 30 schools several months ago.

“We’re still waiting for the equipment,” he said.

One manufacturer gave a delivery date of 23 weeks. Dufay said they are also waiting 423 days for a couple of refrigerated air units.

“So we’re looking at some really crazy delivery times right now,” he said. “So we have the manufacturers across the country, all being hit by school districts. Thousands of school districts are trying to get equipment, and they’re totally overwhelmed right now.”

Dufay said manpower is another issue.

“Our contractors are trying to hire people, we’re trying to hire people in maintenance operations,” he said. “We have 39 vacancies that we’ve had for almost a year already.”

He added that the workers the school district does have are working overtime to make sure classrooms are ready for students who are returning on Aug. 4 and Aug. 10.

“We work on Saturdays and Sundays, and they’re doing about 12-hour days, which is getting to be really tough,” he said. “Some of these guys are getting worn out, and they just need a break.”