Many schools were built in a time when central air wasn’t deemed necessary. Schools stayed cool enough in September and June. Nowadays, communities are finding there are many days in the fall and spring when temperatures rise into the 80s and 90s, far too high for comfort. Teaching and learning become difficult under such conditions.
According to an article in The 74, nearly a dozen of the biggest school districts lack air conditioning. They reported, in a 2014 survey, that about 30% of school buildings, staff rated the access to air conditioning as fair or poor.
The issue is not just a matter of student or teacher comfort, nor is the evidence only anecdotal. Recent research from Harvard University shows that students score lower on tests taken on very hot days and have a harder time learning overall during school years with higher-than-average temperatures.
In most cases, school districts cannot cover the costs, so the responsibility is passed to PTOs. EdCo has assembled some practical planning and fundraising ideas to help you successfully move your AC fundraiser forward:
Air Conditioning Fundraisers
- Walk through your school and count how many classrooms need AC units. Record how many units are needed so you have an accurate number for both estimates and for when you fundraise.
- Contact the district office to tell them about your plans. Often there is a point person (usually a facilities manager) who handles capital improvements and renovations. Understand the steps and details needed to get AC units in place so there are no surprises along the way.
- Does the building need to be rewired to handle the new electrical load needed for the AC units? This can be a costly piece of the project (more than $10,000). If so, arrange for at least three (3) commercial electrical contractors to visit the site to provide quotes (your district will advise on the minimum amount of estimates needed).
- The electricians can advise which AC models would work best for the classrooms and may have suggestions on where to purchase them. Get pricing as this will be key information for fundraising appeals.
- When it is time to buy the units, ensure that:
a. the school has space to store them ahead of installation
b. the district will cover/manage the installation. You should build extra time into your timeline for this. The custodial staff may not have the time or manpower to set the units up until summer vacation or winter vacation.
Good news: It’s far easier to get people to rally behind a specific project like this than a general fundraiser for the school or PTO. And people are sympathetic to the fact that the schools need AC.
Bad news: This can be a very costly expenditure and can take more than a school year from start to finish. You need a core group of people running the fundraising activities to be committed and to stay on course.
Ideas: Having a variety of initiatives can work, especially if this is a multi-year process. Overarching them all should be a central repository for the funds raised. EdCo, an online school fundraising platform serves both organizers and donors. On the organizational front, leaders can track incoming donations and request disbursements as often as needed, can manage students/parents who are fundraising, and more. For donors, EdCo provides a donation letter for tax purposes as well as offers a place for them to post messages for the project.
What else to do?
Have students/parents send the fundraising page link to relatives, neighbors, and coworkers.
Remember to reach out to local businesses. Acknowledge their donations publicly on the campaign page as well as in the PTO newsletter or weekly email.
Send a press release to local publications, both print and online. Share the campaign link so people in the town can donate too. You can also acknowledge local businesses that have contributed in the press release.
Social media is a very helpful tool too. Encourage the students/parents to send out the link to the campaign through their social media accounts.
Paint a thermometer on plywood and set up by school entrance or where parents will see it during drop-off and pick-up. Show the progress being made towards the goal.
Keep communication open. Post updates or photos on the EdCo page. Explain why the installation is still 2 months away from completion. Whatever is necessary to keep your community informed of progress.
Let us know your AC dreams, challenges and successes in the comments below.