Heat melts usual school schedules in Fox Valley
Sun-Times Media August 27, 2013 10:52AM
District 129 maintenance worker Chris Musson delivers a pallet of cold bottled water to West Aurora High School, one of 10 district schools with unairconditioned classrooms. In addition to providing water and extra fans, the district also dismissed early
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:39AM
The scorching temperatures in the Fox Valley are giving a massive headache to local schools, many of which just started classes last week.
East Aurora School District cancelled all after-school activities scheduled for Tuesday due to the heat and humidity. All schools in the district were open as usual and let out at their regularly scheduled times.
During the school day, teachers were giving students water breaks and time to rest to deal with the heat, district officials said.
East Aurora schools also received additional fans to help keep the students as cool as possible.
East Aurora schools will operate on their normal schedules Wednesday. There is no early release of students.
However, West Aurora released students early on Tuesday due to the heat and will dismiss students early again Wednesday due to predicted heat and humidity levels.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service predicted Wednesday’s temperatures for Aurora would top out at 89 F, with a heat index high of 95 F.
Over the last two days, heat has accumulated in the West Aurora buildings without air conditioning “that is not expected to dissipate because of warm overnight temperatures,” the district said Tuesday in a news release.
Seven elementary schools, two middle schools and half the high school do not have air conditioning.
West Aurora will follow the same dismissal schedule Wednesday as it did Tuesday.
“We’ll have all the kids on buses on the way home by noon so we’ll miss the worst of the day and that’s the most important thing,” district spokesman Mike Chapin said.
There were no reported heat-related incidents in school or after-school on playing fields Tuesday, Chapin said. Athletic directors spoke to coaches about the heat and making sure players stay hydrated, he added.
West Aurora High School will let out at 10:40 a.m., with practices immediately following the early dismissal.
The Todd Early Childhood Center and Hope D. Wall preschool will dismiss at 11 a.m. There will be no afternoon preschool at the Todd Center or Hope Wall School.
Elementary schools and the rest of Hope Wall School will dismiss at 11:20 a.m.
Middle schools will dismiss at noon; after-school athletic practices and events are cancelled at the middle schools.
Lunch will not be served at West Aurora on Wednesday.
Special education students in private placements will follow their regular schedule and do not have an early release.
West High’s evening Success Academy will follow its regular schedule and bagged lunches will be provided.
West Aurora administrators will continue to watch the weather for the rest of the week and decide if additional early release days are needed to ensure student and staff safety.
The district is providing all students with cold bottled water during the school day and running extra fans in the hallways and classrooms, Chapin said.
Chapin said the heat can have a definite impact on student achievement.
“They’re supposed to be in school for teaching and learning and not a lot of that would get done,” Chapin said on Monday about the heat.
West Aurora’s general education buses also do not have air conditioning, but special education buses do.
In the Oswego 308 School District, two elementary schools, The Wheatlands and Fox Chase, have been warmer than usual after the air conditioning in both schools broke down, according to Superintendent Matthew Wendt.
On Monday, temperatures in the schools reached highs of 88 degrees in the afternoon, Wendt said.
“This has been a big challenge for our district,” Wendt said. “The air conditioning is complex, it’s huge, and it simply cannot be fixed in a short period of time.”
He added that the air conditioning units in both schools were a year past their expected useful lives.
The schools each have mobile units on site where students can cool off, and maintenance staff at the schools planned to make sure that rooms would be more normal temperatures by Wednesday morning, Wendt said.
Still, one Fox Chase parent told the school board Monday night that he planned to keep his children at home Tuesday.
“It’s a little disturbing to see the AC out,” said parent Wayne Harshberger. “It’s also disturbing to have them going into PE when they’re doing physical activity and going back to a hot classroom.”
It has been business as usual, though, in Naperville School District 203. District officials said that school principals are monitoring the situation.
“School staff is prepared to have students remain inside for recess or PE classes during these hot days, if advisable,” District 203 Director of Communication Susan Rice said in an e-mail. “As for our athletic teams, coaches make adjustments in their training practices. If we were having a typical summer, our sports teams would have been dealing with this heat for several weeks already, so this is not an unusual situation for our coaches.”
Conditions are expected to cool down slightly for the rest of the week, with highs of 84 in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.