WINTHROP — After several central Maine school districts dismissed students early last week because they could not keep classrooms cool enough, a family has donated 14 air conditioners to a local grade school.

State Rep. Tavis Hasenfus, D-Readfield, and his wife, Nicole, donated the air conditioners to Winthrop Grade School, which will allow each classroom at the building to stay cool.

The gift came on the heels of a historically hot week in the Augusta area that saw two days with temperatures in the 90s and an advisory that the weather could cause heat illness.

State Rep. Tavis Hasenfus, D-Readfield, plays with his son, Grafton, at the Maine State House in Augusta. Hasenfus and his wife, Nicole, have donated 14 air conditioners to Winthrop Grade School after high temperatures last week prompted the first heat-related closures in nearly 40 years. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The Winthrop school district was one of four in the region that canceled classes or after-school activities due to high temperatures inside classrooms. Most schools across Maine do not have air conditioning.

Tavis and Nicole Hasenfus said they decided to make the donation after observing their young daughter come home exhausted after a day at school. Tavis Hasenfus said her exhaustion could have stemmed from the completion of her first-ever day of school, but said it was likely due to the heat.

“You could see the difference the next day,” said Hasenfus, noting his daughter had come home energized after the air conditioners were installed. “I’m sure they are seeing the difference, too. You need to be comfortable to learn and, if not, you can’t learn.”


Though Tavis Hasenfus and his family live in Readfield, he is a third-generation Winthrop High School graduate and opted to enroll his children in the district.

A few of the classrooms at the grade school already had installed air conditioners during the COVID-19 pandemic. He asked the cost of one air conditioner and how many other classrooms needed one. 

The couple declined to comment on the cost of the air conditioners, and said there are “far more people in the community who contribute more.”

Superintendent Jim Hodgkin expressed his gratitude for the donation, adding that administrators will no longer have to worry about indoor heat affecting children at Winthrop Grade School.

“Last Thursday was the first time in my 40 years that school was closed early due to the heat,” Hodgkin said. “In the future, that will not be a problem for the grade school, but could still happen at the middle or high school, which does not have (air conditioning) in the classrooms.” 

Winthrop Grade School has 387 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade, according to the Maine Department of Education.

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