School starts on Monday, and Lincoln School is going to be open as usual – sort of. The junior high school is in the midst of a major renovation and modernization of the the roof, HVAC and electrical systems.
As Nick Hernandez, a Kern County Superintendent of Schools official working with the district on its modernization said, "It's been a busy summer." Some of the work is complete, but there won't be any way to power new air conditioning.
The school's antiquated electrical system is being upgraded, Taft City School Supt. Ron Bryant said, but PG&E isn't going to have its new hookup to the grid done in time to cool the classrooms being upgraded.
So portable evaporative coolers will be used in some of the classrooms.
It may actually be better than the old swamp coolers the school was relying on for cooling, Hernandez said.
Bryant said the district is hoping to get the system up and running early in September, but the middle of the month is more likely.
"Realistically we are looking at the second or third week of September," he said.
It could have been worse. Up until a few days ago, the district had no idea when PG&E would install the necessary equipment to supply the upgraded Lincoln system with enough electricity.
Bryant happened to mention the problem at a Taft Chamber Sit n' Sip on July 3.
Supervisor David Couch and his staff were there and got involved. Suddenly the TCSD found itself moved to the top of the PG&E project list, Bryant said.
But its still going to be a few weeks until everything is done.
While classrooms are undergoing the modernizations, eight will be shut down at a time, and students will be housed across the street both at the the annex and in a vacant classroom at Roosevelt School. Bryant said students will be kept cool with portable air conditioning and swamp coolers.
In addition, some classrooms will not have ceilings for a time.
Only plastic sheeting will cover the top of the rooms while the work is being completed.
Bryant said it should not impact the learning environment.
The work is part of the upgrades funded by a bond measure and most of the money is being spent on Lincoln, which was built starting in the 1930s.
Money from the bond will allow the district to replace the last of the old swamp coolers in the district with new air conditioning, heating and climate control.
"It's going to be a much better learning environment," Bryant said. "That's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."