Members of the Tempe Union High School District governing board authorized the district on Wednesday night to sue the state over its refusal to pay about $17 million in emergency funds to fix an aging ventilation system at Corona del Sol High School.
The school district can now join two other school districts — Williams Unified and Sierra Vista Unified — in their claims that the state is not fully funding a pool of money for the maintenance of schools.
“I’m certainly going to support this, but I think it is a sad day when we have to sue our own state in order to get support for our children,” said board member Michelle Helm, before voting on the issue. “It’s something I never thought I would need to do.”
The district has been battling for more than a year with the state’s School Facilities Board, trying to get emergency funds to fix a 30-year-old heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system. School officials paid for an independent air quality test that showed high carbon dioxide levels in the air. Also, students and staff have complained of health concerns, mold and a musty odor caused by the inefficient ventilation system.
Yet the School Facilities Board said the poor air quality does not constitute an emergency, and therefore the district should use its own money to pay for repairs.
Recently, the district appealed the School Facilities Board’s decision. Now, a judge must rule on the appeal by mid-next week.
If he rules in Corona del Sol’s favor, the district can withdraw from the lawsuit, said district spokeswoman Linda Littell.