How a late-summer heat wave is affecting schools across the country

"Although our preference is to have all buildings open and all students in class, our top priority is the safety of each student and staff member," reads a statement from the West Shore School District.

School is now underway for most districts across the country; however, Mother Nature has a different idea. An uncomfortable late-summer heat wave is forcing leaders to make tough decisions about whether temperatures are safe enough for students to come to school. In some cases, they say, students are better off staying home.

Schools leveraging half-days

Several school districts across New Jersey have announced half-day schedules for the rest of the week starting Tuesday, including the Winslow Township School District, the Camden City School District and the Gloucester Township School District, reports. All three districts are expected to face temperatures in the mid-to-high 90s all week. According to CCSD, this will likely impact bus transportation.

“Please keep in mind, because of possible citywide early dismissals due to the weather, buses bringing students home from school may be 30-40 minutes late,” reads a statement from the district. “This is a result of city schools dismissing at approximately the same time.”

Milwaukee Public Schools made the difficult decision to dismiss early on the first day of school as leaders expect extreme temperatures on Tuesday. According to TMJ4, the heat index is likely to approach 95 degrees or higher.

As of 2021, only 17% of the district’s buildings were equipped with proper air conditioning.

Virtual learning opportunities

Baltimore City schools that lack air conditioning will either dismiss students early or provide virtual learning opportunities on Tuesday and Wednesday as record-breaking heat causes further disruptions in their second week of school, CBS News reports. According to Baltimore City Public Schools, there are at least 10 schools without air conditioning.

“Since 2017, City Schools has decreased the number of schools without air conditioning from 75 to 10,” reads a statement on the district’s website. “By the middle of the school year, we will be down to only eight schools. “The remaining schools will be completed as part of a building replacement or renovation plan.”

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Schools in central Pennsylvania are also preparing for what they expect to be the peak of the heat wave by altering schedules for schools that “aren’t adequately cooled,” according to Penn LiveFor instance, five school buildings within the West Shore School District don’t have air conditioning. As a result, they’ll be leveraging remote instruction on Tuesday, and possibly Wednesday and Thursday.

“Although our preference is to have all buildings open and all students in class, our top priority is the safety of each student and staff member,” reads a statement from the district. “Further is our goal to make timely decisions. We understand and recognize the impact these decisions have on family schedules, childcare, work arrival, etc. Rest assured, we do not take the impact on families and staff lightly.”

However, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh city schools are expected to be the hardest hit. According to The Inquirer, Philadelphia has announced early dismissal for 74 school buildings that lack proper air conditioning. As for Pittsburgh schools, students across 38 schools will move to online instruction, according to KDKA

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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