Air conditioning reduces Columbia Public Schools dismissal due to heat

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 | 5:16 p.m. CDT; updated 6:04 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 27, 2013

COLUMBIA — Early dismissal because of excessive heat used to be a part of back-to-school life in Columbia. But this year, all Columbia Public Schools buildings are air-conditioned — in some form.

"We either have temporary or permanent air systems installed in the buildings," district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.

Air conditioning at West Middle School will be done in a week or two with the completion of a heating, ventilation and air conditioning project. Jefferson Middle School's HVAC project is scheduled to be done by August or September 2014.

"There were mobile units installed at Jefferson to make things more comfortable until the project is complete, and because more than 80 percent of West is now air-conditioned, there was no need to have early dismissal this year," Baumstark said.

Because Jefferson's building is more than 100 years old and West is more than 50 years old, making installation more difficult, the air conditioning retrofitting was predicted to take two years to complete from the start of construction in 2012.

"There are still a couple of things left to do at West," Baumstark said. "It's a huge, huge project, but it should be completed in a week or two."

The predicted high temperature for Wednesday is in the upper 90s, putting the heat index at about 100 degrees, said Butch Dye of the National Weather Service.

This would affect outdoor sports in the schools. The district follows guidelines developed by certified personal trainers to help coaches and athletics directors make decisions on practicing and playing in extreme weather conditions, Baumstark said.

The guidelines are:

  • Heat index of 85-94 degrees: caution is advised; practice with modifications.
  • Heat index of 95-103 degrees: modify practice (no pads or helmets) or move indoors into air-conditioned facilities.
  • Heat index of more than 104 degrees: cancel outdoor activities.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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