Hot lunches will be prepared in hot kitchens at some Stafford County public schools when classes start Monday.
Ten county schools do not have air-conditioned cafeteria kitchens.
“With the school year beginning on August 12, this will be a real hardship to those employees who must work [in the kitchen] to prepare meals for the children and staff,” said Stafford Supervisor Jack Cavalier.
Widewater Elementary, one of the schools in the Griffis–Widewater District Cavalier represents, is among those that do not have air-conditioned kitchens.
Following a June 4 Board of Supervisors work session on the county’s capital improvement plan, Cavalier and George Washington District representative Tom Coen asked that public school staff provide a list of schools with no cooling system in their kitchens, as well as the cost to add a system and “an alternative if available.”
According to the school staff’s response, Widewater, Hartwood, Rocky Run, Rockhill, Park Ridge, Winding Creek, Ferry Farm and Hampton Oaks elementary schools, Drew Middle School and North Stafford High School do not have air-conditioning in the kitchens.
Schools spokesperson Sherrie Johnson said there are no plans to immediately add air-conditioning to any of the cafeteria kitchens.
“AC will be installed throughout the capital improvement process when funds are available,” she wrote in an email to the Free Lance–Star.
School staff told the Board of Supervisors that the cost to add air- conditioning “varies on a case-by-case basis.”
Rockhill Elementary is scheduled to get kitchen air-conditioning this fiscal year, which started July 1, as part of a mechanical repair project. It will cost approximately $240,000, “excluding design costs,” school staff told the Board of Supervisors.
Hartwood Elementary School and Drew Middle School are scheduled to receive kitchen air-conditioning as part of future renovation or rebuild projects. According to the county’s approved capital improvement plan, the Hartwood and Drew projects will begin in fiscal years 2025 and 2029, respectively.
For the remaining schools, kitchen air-conditioning will be installed during mechanical repair projects or “standalone infrastructure projects.” These are scheduled between fiscal years 2021 and 2028 and “are relying on unidentified school operating funds as the funding source.”
The school division approved a pre-Labor Day start date for the upcoming school year last summer, but started gathering community input on an earlier start date in 2017.
Fredericksburg City Public Schools also start before Labor Day for the first time this year. Food Service Director Brian Kiernan said all five of the city’s schools have climate-controlled kitchens.
Spotsylvania County Public Schools established a pre-Labor Day start date last year. Spotsylvania spokesperson René Daniels said all school kitchens in the county are air-conditioned.