Twin Rivers removes broken HVAC units from Grant Union High

A 75-foot crane lifted broken heating and air conditioning units off the roof at Grant Union High School on Thursday, easing fears that students will have to spend another school year in classrooms that are too cold in winter and too hot in the summer.

The project to upgrade and replace the heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems at Grant Union High in Del Paso Heights and Harmon Johnson Elementary in North Sacramento is expected to be completed by the time the school year begins on Aug. 14, according to Twin Rivers Unified School District officials. The district has dubbed the effort, “Feel the difference! Creating a new climate in our classrooms!”

Grant Union parents and students have complained for years about uncomfortable classroom temperatures at the 82-year-old campus. Their frustration grew in January when The Sacramento Bee found that 140 new HVAC units worth $3 million had been sitting in storage – among them 72 units purchased for Grant Union High and Harmon Johnson Elementary.

“We understand the community’s frustration in the past with delays in getting this important project off the ground,” said Superintendent Steven Martinez, in a prepared statement. “We have made a commitment to our community, parents, staff and students and it’s one we are determined to keep. When schools reopen at the end of summer break, our students, staff and parents will be able to feel the difference.”

In 2012, the district purchased 38 HVAC units for Grant Union High. The money came from a $230 million bond measure approved by community members in 2006. At the same time, Twin Rivers purchased 34 HVAC units for Harmon Johnson Elementary. The district replaced three units – in the library, office and administration building – at the school earlier this year.

The new units, which range from 4 tons to 17.5 tons, are replacing worn-out HVAC units that can no longer be repaired, in many cases because parts are no longer available.

The installation project is expected to cost $7.6 million. The district also is embarking on a $25 million plan to upgrade, paint, repair and refurbish district schools, according to district officials.

A task force comprising district staff has met twice a month to monitor the progress of the HVAC project and to identify problems that could delay it, according to district officials. In January, Martinez said the district would put aside $1 million annually for continued maintenance and replacement of heating and air conditioning units.

Crews installed pipe, performed electrical work and laid foundations for the 71 units – 37 at Grant and 34 at Harmon Johnson – over the last month. Once all the HVAC units are removed, crews will remove any dry rot and make needed repairs to the roofs, said Zenobia Gerald, the district’s spokeswoman. Installation of the new units should begin at the end of the month.