West Aurora to provide ‘cooling zones’ in schools to beat the heat

West Aurora School District is prepared to provide some level of relief from the potential warm summer days scheduled to arrive just as students return to school this week.

“It’s like the weather knows we are coming,” Superintendent Jeff Craig said.

District officials announced at Monday night’s School Board meeting that each building will be equipped with “cooling zones” for students and staff to get some temporary relief, so long as high temperatures and humidity are not deemed unsafe.

The district last year decided to dismiss students early from school on several hot days that arrived as students returned to classes. The first day of school is Wednesday for District 129.

“We are anticipating the potentiality of heat becoming a concern in our buildings,” Craig told the School Board.

He said the district has in place a basis to “quantitatively” measure the weather conditions and any decisions will be made in collaboration with surrounding school districts that have similar concerns.

“So it is not just arbitrary and we do have touch points in all of our buildings. We have a lot of new folks in our surrounding districts so we are trying to re-establish those communication links so we are not doing this in isolation. We want to make decisions collaboratively,” Craig said.

Angela Smith, assistant superintendent of operations, informed board members that the district had purchased around $7,000 worth of portable air-conditioning units to place in school buildings across the district.

“We want to make sure in every one of our school buildings there is some place that will be air-conditioned with a window unit,” she said.

Smith said the cooling zones will be located either in a classroom or a library where kids can rotate in for certain periods of the day.

“It is our hope (that we will be able to avoid having to dismiss school early) or stretch the day longer,” Smith said.

She said one of the primary issues associated with excessive heat and humidity is the compounding affect it has in creating stifling conditions in the older buildings.

“If the building does not cool down overnight, students return to school the next day to a building that is really hot. We are hoping the air-conditioning units might help to bring the temperature down,” she said.

Seven elementary schools, two middle schools and half the high school, as well as the Todd Early Childhood Center, do not have central air conditioning in West Aurora School District.

The School Board is in the process of having a facilities needs assessment done on all of its schools within the district that will be used as a basis to formulate a decision on a possible building referendum next year.

A capital project study completed last year provided estimates for the conversion or prepping of campuses for newer geothermal heating and cooling systems to address the issue of buildings not fully equipped with air conditioning.

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