(COVINGTON, La.) — Since the summer, the La Salle Hall building has been experiencing an epidemic of air conditioner glitches, each signified by the same message: the dreaded E6 error code, indicating an issue with the humidity sensor and rendering the unit inoperable. The St. Paul’s maintenance team has been trying to fix this problem for some time now, but has been inhibited by the lack of replacement parts on a unit that is barely more than two years old.
According to school financial records, the problems all started in July when the company replaced a central board that was affecting unit #11A, located in the Publications classroom, shared by the Journalism and Yearbook classes. The bill was $591, and that would have been the end of it, but the unit quickly malfunctioned again.
The bill record shows that the repairmen returned to this particular unit about a month later, carefully examining it and restoring it back to working condition. The unit broke again the very next day.
Each subsequent visit from the a/c specialists inevitably ended with a referral to their Tech Support unit, delaying resolution of the problem further. Eventually, Msgt. Donald “Sarge” Pressley, head of the school’s maintenance department, had enough of the endless bills and fruitless visits from handymen.
“They kept showing up for awhile, then leaving without really fixing the problem. It was starting to get really tedious,” Pressley said.
According to Pressley, when he inquired to one of these repairmen about the problem, the worker responded that they simply had no replacement parts. For an undisclosed reason, the a/c manufacturer, Carrier Home Comfort, did not produce spare parts for the a/c units that St. Paul’s purchased when La Salle Hall was renovated in 2011. This naturally makes the relatively new unit difficult to fix.
“The problem is not exclusively the availability of the parts,” a representative of the a/c provider Brister Stephens, Inc., affirmed. “Tech Support keeps telling us to replace parts that we have already replaced. We now think that the problem could be with the entire external board, which might have to be replaced altogether.”
However, the Publications room unit is not the only unit in the building to suffer from breakdowns in recent months. Three additional units have been repaired since the summer–a hall unit, the Art Room unit, and the unit in Assistant Principal Joe Dicken’s office–all of which are barely past their two-year warranty period.
“I’m tired of the air conditioning not working,” Trevor Watkins, Principal of St. Paul’s School, said about the issue that has taken nearly three months to resolve. “We are working to get it done. There are historic books in [the Publications room] that could potentially be mildewed. I hope the provider fixes the problem soon.”
The provider, however, isn’t showing any signs of fixing the problem, instead giving the denizens of La Salle Hall the not-so-cold shoulder. The classroom has been forced to find alternative cooling methods. Yearbook Teacher Andrew Dart, who shares the classroom with the Journalism class, was able to dig up an old electric fan from storage with a broken power knob.
“We’ve had to rig the knob with a wad of masking tape,” Journalism Teacher Christi Simoneaux said. “The air is still hot, but at least it’s moving now. Sometimes when we keep the door open to the hallway, we can get a little bit of cooler air from the hallway unit, when it’s working. But, I’m not supposed to leave the door open because it violates the school’s safety codes.”
Eventually, Pressley had enough of the stream of constant complaints from the sweaty faculty and students and sent the a/c provider an ultimatum: fix our units, or we don’t pay.
“(The repairmen) come in and just hang around. Sometimes they’ll try a new part, but that E6 stays up there. It’s September. They were supposed to have this problem fixed in July,” Pressley said.
The company has yet to respond to this demand, Pressley says, but regardless of how they react, the students hope that this story ends with never having to see the letter “E” and the number “6” together again.
UPDATE: Moments before this article was scheduled to publish, the a/c company, Brister Stephens, resolved the problem, presumably permanently. Updates will be posted as needed.