Early dismissal on an 80 degree day? Here’s why.

Earlier today the ICCSD announced that school was being dismissed early due to “excessive heat and humidity.”  Parents, including me, were puzzled.  It’s only 81-82 degrees outside!  I managed to figure out why it makes sense, so I want to lay it out briefly here. Some people are still sincerely puzzled, while others in the ICCSD reacto-sphere are charging forward suggesting that Superintendent Steve Murley made the decision from “his beach house” and that it shows that our kids and teachers lack grit.  Nonsense.

Currently, about 23% of the District’s classrooms aren’t air conditioned.  While its not that hot outside today, its still very hot in those classrooms that lack AC, especially in the upper floors of multi-story buildings. Its been very hot and humid for the 3 days preceding today, and heat builds up.  Opening the windows doesn’t do much good on a hot day like yesterday because it just lets hot air in.  And, we can’t just leave the windows open all night without hiring extra staff to keep the building secure. And, the two days before yesterday were Saturday and Sunday, days when the buildings would have been closed up.

Because of this, many kids and teachers reported this morning to classrooms that were, as of 7:30, already in the mid 80s, even before 22-26 inhabitants brought their body heat into those rooms.  Later in the morning it had climbed to around 90 degrees in the rooms on the third floor of Mann Elementary. Trust me– no significant learning is going to take place in a classroom that hot, especially with nearly 91% humidity. Its like sitting in hot soup.  And more than that, its a health hazard.

I saw someone suggest that maybe only the schools that lack AC could be let out early, but that’s not a workable solution either. The district can’t reconfigure bus routes on a moment’s notice, or drop busses that students depend on.  Nor can we afford to run two sets of busses, with some of each set being empty.  And, if you do that, then the kids in the older schools receive fewer instructional hours than the kids in the modern schools, which is a problem both for educational equity and for state hourly instruction requirements.

I’ve seen lots and lots of hot takes (ha ha!) from angry parents this morning.  I know that this kind of thing causes people real inconveniences.  But this is decision was made based on feedback from teachers and administrators in buildings reporting the actual conditions of those buildings, and its a decision that’s made in order to keep kids safe and healthy.

Fortunately, we won’t have to worry about this after 2019, when the last of the Facilities Master Plan updates finishes, bringing AC to every school in the District.  Or, we won’t as long as the GO Bond passes.

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Author: Eric D. Johnson

I do American Studies (PhD University of Iowa 2012) scholarship, including but not limited to: Race and Genre in American Popular Music, Critical Southern Studies, and African American Memory and History in the Ozarks. I also write about educational policy and politics, focusing on integration and desegregation and the intersection of school and housing policies.

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