Hart district tables talks on A/C for gyms 

The William S. Hart Union High School District office
The William S. Hart Union High School District office

The William S. Hart Union High School District governing board heard a presentation at last week’s board meeting that details what it would cost to add air conditioning units to each of the district’s seven high school gyms. 

The governing board ultimately decided to table the talks as members were unsure of where the funding would come from or if it is feasible to spend the expected $20 million to add air conditioning units. 

“I think we’ve got some homework to do, some more things to look into,” said board President Bob Jensen, who represents Trustee Area No. 2. 

Hart district Superintendent Mike Kuhlman outlined why the district is exploring the option of adding air conditioning to gyms. 

“The reason why we’re having this presentation,” Kuhlman said, “is because over the past several years, everyone is aware that in the Santa Clarita Valley we’ve experienced periods of extreme heat in the summer and early fall, prompting constituents in the valley to ask the question, ‘Are our gymnasiums air conditioned? And if they’re not air conditioned, how can we get them air conditioned?’” 

Temperatures inside of the gyms can reach as high as 85 degrees, according to Mike Otavka, the district’s director of facilities, planning and construction. 

The analysis was provided by Architecture for Education (A4E), which did not have a representative at the meeting. Instead, the engineers who worked with A4E delivered the presentation along with Otavka. 

The final cost, Otavka said, would not just be the installation of the units; it includes retrofitting some of the gyms that need reinforcement to sustain the heavy units. 

“I just want to caution everyone that since this is conceptual work, there’s still a lot of things that are unknown,” Otavka said. 

The two schools that were detailed were West Ranch and Canyon High Schools. The West Ranch gym is one of the newer ones in the district, having been constructed in 2007, while Canyon’s gym is much older, having been constructed in three parts between 1967 and 1970. 

According to Ryan Celaya with Capital Engineering, West Ranch would be one of the easier projects, with an estimated cost of $2.45 million. 

“On this campus, the rooftop units, they were originally designed to have future air conditioning added,” Celaya said. “So, the electrical loads, the weight, it was already kind of planned for that.” 

That is a stark contrast to Canyon’s gym, which was not designed with air conditioning planned as a future amenity, Celaya said. The estimated cost for adding air conditioning at Canyon is approximately $2.6 million. 

“It’s more of a custom installation on the low roofs next to the gym,” Celaya said. 

The other option for Canyon, according to Otavka, would be to build a new gym. He said that there are state programs that are providing grants to school districts that are seeking to replace older buildings with new ones that are up to code. 

Otavka said his best estimate for a new gym would be $30 million. That cost was not part of the estimated cost analysis presented on Wednesday. 

Castaic High School, according to the analysis report, has the highest estimated cost at $5.6 million. The school was constructed in 2015. 

The cost for Castaic is more than $3 million more than the average cost for the other schools, according to the cost analysis report. A breakdown of that cost analysis shows that the three units that would cool the Castaic gym would cost approximately $1.37 million in total. That’s compared to four units totaling roughly $500,000 for Canyon and six units for roughly $850,500 at West Ranch. 

The gym at Castaic would also require a further $275,800 in electrical work, $120,000 In structural strengthening and $100,000 in interior finishing, including a complete demolition and rebuild of the ceiling. 

Castaic has the largest area to cover at 48,708 square feet, with the next closest being Golden Valley High School at 47,200 square feet, according to cost analysis breakdown. 

Governing board member Erin Wilson, who represents Trustee Area No. 4, questioned why a gym that was constructed in 2015 did not have air conditioning as part of its initial plan. 

“Air conditioning has never been a part of our standard for high schools, and it’s hard to put it in one and not put it in all of them,” Otavka said. “And that’s the dilemma we would have had, had we put it in one school and not put it in the other schools.” 

When asked by governing board member Cherise Moore, who represents Trustee Area No. 3, which schools would be the priority if funding could not be found for all seven, Otavka said that further analysis would be needed. 

When talking about where the money would come from should the talks turn into an action item, Kuhlman clarified that the funds would not come from the general fund and the funds would only be allowed to be used for capital projects, such as this. 

“When we’re talking about facilities projects, none of this is coming from the general fund,” Kuhlman said. “This would be resources should they become available that are in a separate category.” 

Otavka went on to say that the more than $20 million that was estimated is the cost to add air conditioning now. That cost could rise by between 25% and 35% of the original estimate in three to four years, according to Otavka. 

“And that would not include if we have to replace any buildings,” Otavka said. 

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