Hot temperatures disrupt the new school year

The late summer heatwave that swept across much of the country this week prompted several schools to cancel classes or send students home early. This illustrates how poorly prepared many districts are for the increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

In Des Moines, school bus drivers received medical attention at the end of their muggy shifts. The Chicago teachers were told to turn off the overhead lights and close the blinds to keep the classrooms bearable. A marching band teacher outfitted students with water backpacks at 7:30 a.m. to prevent them from passing out due to the heat

The scorching temperatures and high humidity that plagued millions of Americans from the upper Midwest to the Southeast made the first few days of the new school year even more difficult. Education experts and parents said it was a stark reminder of the urgent need to make schools more resilient to climate change.

“We can’t send students and educators into the sauna and expect them to learn,” said Karen White, the sauna’s associate general manager National Education Association. “As the climate continues to change and warm, we need to modernize school buildings or we are putting students at risk.”

On Wednesday, the first day of the school year for Des Moines students, the temperature rose to 100 degrees. a record high. Only five of the public school district’s 130 buses have air conditioning, making the trip home a pain for many students, said Phil Roeder, the school district’s communications director.

At the end of the day, Mr Roeder said 15 drivers were being treated for signs of heat exhaustion, including one who was taken to hospital.

In Concordia, Missouri, Jessica Gieselman was alarmed when her 6-year-old son Wesley came home in a sweat on Tuesday, the first day of school. Wesley, who has asthma, gets off at the third stop on his route and typically doesn’t spend more than 30 minutes on the bus.

“I was concerned about how hot and stuffy it is on that bus for my asthmatic son when he’s sitting there,” said Ms. Gieselman, who posted a short video to Facebook of her son looking tired as he walked to the door came in. She and her husband made arrangements to drive Wesley home from school for the rest of the week Maximum values ​​reached the three-digit range, although it’s impractical because both work. “It would be nice if we had air conditioning on the buses, but I know that’s expensive,” Ms. Gieselman said.

Molly McGee Hewittexecutive director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation, said counties in parts of the country unaccustomed to extreme heat during the school months have been slow to make the necessary infrastructure investments.

“While in the past they might have thought of air conditioning as a gimmick, it’s now clear that it’s becoming a necessity,” she said. “It’s going to be a huge investment and it can’t happen overnight.”

In 2020, the Government Accountability Office, a federal regulatory agency, thought so about 41 percent of school districts had inadequate heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in at least half of their schools.

Since then, the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted school districts to do so make big investments Upgrading air filter systems. However, many schools have been slow to begin installing or upgrading air conditioning systems.

At Marshall Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa, authorities cut the school day by two hours Wednesday Thursday and Friday, when the temperature hovered in the 90s. Principal Joe Maloney said his staff worked hard to ensure students had water bottles on hand and went slowly through the day.

Towards the end of the school day on Thursday, he encountered a few students in the canteen who looked exhausted. “It looked like they almost melted into the ground,” he said.

Daniel Krumm, a drum teacher at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, said he and his colleagues across the country have come up with new protocols to protect band members on hot days. Each student is given backpacks with hydration packs and is constantly reminded to take a sip during practice, he said.

“We find that students, particularly those of high school age, have a genuine desire to find their limits and are willing to really give their all, even when it’s difficult,” said Mr. Krumm.

Shannon McCann, a special education teacher in Federal Way, Washington, said she and her colleagues struggled to keep students safe during a school year heat wave last May. Teachers bought bottled water to ensure students were hydrated. Some turned off the lights in the classroom and turned on the fans.

But Ms McCann, who has been teaching for 11 years, said these measures were not enough. Some students went to the nurse to get ice packs. Others were sent home due to the heat Migraines and bloody noses, she said.

“The heat, our underfunded schools and outdated infrastructure are putting children and educators at risk,” she said.

Joseph G Allena professor at Harvard University who leads it Harvard Healthy Buildings Program, said schools that fail to make their facilities more adaptable to climate change will pay a price for student learning. Professor Allen said this problem exacerbates inequalities in the public education system because schools in less affluent communities are slower to make the necessary investments.

“It is irresponsible that we have not committed the resources to make our schools more resilient to these threats,” he said.

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