Heat Wave and School Operations

June 9, 1999
This is the text of a memorandum sent today [Wednesday, June 9, 1999] to the Board of Education from Dr. Paul L. Vance, superintendent of schools, concerning the continued heat wave and school operations:


"The cumulative effects of three consecutive days of high temperatures are making conditions inside the 27 schools without air-conditioning difficult and demanding for staff and students. Complaints about the decision to keep schools open are continuing, although to a lesser degree than yesterday and Monday. The precautionary steps taken by principals and other school-based staff in dealing with the extremely high indoor temperatures are alleviating some of the negative conditions, and additional central office support is being provided to schools in need of bottled water and other resources.

I am extremely proud of the professional manner in which the vast majority of principals, teachers, and other staff are addressing the problems being caused by the extreme weather conditions.

"I deliberated with staff last evening and this morning, and I am aware of the many concerns and recommendations received by telephone and e-mail by staff. I am still convinced that an early closing for the schools without air-conditioning is not in the best interest of all of our students.

"I continue to believe that the safest place for children today is in their schools, despite the hot and uncomfortable conditions. Many of the affected schools serve children from low-income families in which parents are not readily available to return home from work quickly to respond to an early dismissal. Consequently, these schools necessarily would have to retain these children in classes until the normal scheduled dismissal, thereby negating the effect of an early release. In schools where parents wish to take their children home early for medical or health reasons, principals have been advised to grant an excused absence. Situations involving staff members who are experiencing physical difficulties because of the heat are being dealt with on an individual basis.

"The situation involving schools without air-conditioning will be resolved for nearly all of them by this time next year. Twenty-one of these schools will receive relief as part of the $8.6 million air-conditioning initiative approved this year. Of the remaining six schools, one middle school is undergoing modernization beginning this fall, and the students and staff will be relocated to an air-conditioned holding school. The five other schools will receive air-conditioning as part of modernization projects over the next few years. The estimated cost of providing air-conditioning to these five remaining schools on a short-term basis is approximately $2.5 million."

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