Abilene ISD opts to fix HVAC, lighting concerns

Seth Godding checks the oil level on a McMurry University student’s car Wednesday. The McMurry Pit Stop is manned by faculty and staff at the end of each semester to ensure students vehicles get them home safely.

Just when we thought the Abilene Independent School District was finishing construction, the district announced it’s spending $29 million on efficiencies.

What does that mean?

Well, new light bulbs and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units for a lot of the district’s facilities will be replaced.

It’s part of plan in partnership with Schneider Electric to reduce utility expenses — and in some ways, the district’s carbon footprint — over the next 20 years.

The new project will continue one of the district’s goals of the $138.7 million bond that’s wrapping up these next few months. In that project was $10 million used to replace aging HVAC units and completely change the way Abilene High is heated and cooled.

More: Some hurt, some not as Abilene-area school construction projects deal with inflation

From 2020: Abilene ISD moves forward with Dyess Elementary replacement, second round of HVAC work

That $10 million price tag was not enough, and everyone knew it. So the district did the work it could afford. Now, it’s time for the rest.

Aside from HVAC, lighting improvements may be the other key action here. And it’ll make a lot of people happy once it’s done. Reporter-News photographer Ronald Erdrich will be one of them, after years of photographing sports at Shotwell Stadium.

That venue is included in the project, which will hopefully allow Erdrich’s photographs, which are spectacular in my opinion, to be even better. He’s done what he can with low and uneven lighting.

Erdrich has been known to question Abilene ISD Superintendent David Young about getting new lights at Shotwell whenever they see each other. Erdrich was excited when he learned the news.

Paying for the project will be twofold. First, the district will use a little less than $8 million out of its own savings. The rest, Young said, will come from a municipal finance lease, with low interest rates available.

Savings, Young said, could be about $9 million, meaning it could be financially successful compared to the money spent out of the district’s coffers.

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Young said the district’s savings account has roughly $30 million of unspecified money.

Safety a concern at Abilene High?

Abilene High School received a second threat of violence last week, delivered through an unspecified way (probably social media).

Threats against schools across the country seemed to increase in the time since a 15-year-old student used a handgun to attack a school in a Detroit suburb.

Young said threats are taken seriously, with administration immediately referring the information to the Abilene Police Department for investigation. Like with the first threat, Young said, the second one was deemed unsubstantiated.

But students and faculty on campus were alarmed. Some were even fearful. It doesn’t really matter if the threat is unsubstantiated or not, because the damage is done to the psyches of those who have to be there for hours every day.

No student, staff member or teacher should be subjected to this psychological torture, no matter what may happen on a day-to-day basis.

After the first threat, exactly a week before this second one, I asked the police department what they would be doing to prevent these threats from being made. After all, making a threat of any kind, legitimate or not, is a federal crime.

I didn’t receive an answer to my questions.

Other areas across the country where threats increased following the Oxford High School shooting have seen students arrested for their threats.

I hope these threats aren’t just being investigated for validity and, for the sake of the students and staff who are living their lives how they should, are going to result in legal action soon.

Scholarships awarded

Taylor County Commissioner Chuck Statler, through the County Judges and Commissioners of Texas, awarded three scholarships to Abilene students.

Deborah Musonera (Abilene High), Haley Michelle Burkhart (Wylie High) and Cullen McMillion (Cooper High) were this year’s recipients of the organization’s Past Presidents Scholarship Award, with the winners each receiving $1,000.

Congratulations to the three winners.

Column note

This will be the final education notebook column of the year.

With universities and colleges finished for the semester, and school districts on Christmas break starting Dec. 20, it should be quiet and dull in this section of the world.

Everyone enjoy their Christmases and New Year frivolity. Don’t get into too much trouble.

Timothy Chipp covers education and is general assignments reporter for the Abilene Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Education notebook: Abilene ISD opts to fix HVAC, lighting concerns