The Fairfax County school board blew hot and cold last week on the issue of air-conditioning classrooms in the county's older schools.

Several PTAs at older schools are offering to donate air-conditioning units as a way to get around the county prohibition on spending county funds to cool older classrooms.

"This may bump into the school board's policy" of equalization, Superintendent Linton Deck suggested, since some PTAs can raise more money than others.

New schools are equipped with air-conditioning, an older schools are permitted to cool offices and public areas. But voters in two referendums have rejected funds to air-condition older classrooms, Deck reminded the board.

Despite his cautionary reminders, Deck has recommended new guidelines to allow PTAs to donate air conditioners, noting that he feels community support of schools should be encouraged and that it is unlikely the county could come up with the money.

School board member Robert E. Frye said that if the board permitted PTAs to air-condition some schools, the board would have "a moral obligation" to consider offering air-conditioning to other schools.

Board member Toni M. Carney indicated the ban on PTA-donated air conditioners should be repealed, pointing out that the county allows PTAs to donate many other items to the schools -- without having to ask permission. "PTAs don't need to come to us to increase school libraries. PTA funds are used to buy astronomical amounts of school supplies . . . some PTAs raise up to $1,200 a year," Carney said.

"I'm in favor of equity," concluded board member Eltse B. Carter, "but equity in the quality of education, not a lot of peripheral things . . . 169 schools are too diverse to be the same."