Heat forces early school dismissals

The district will have to deal with the same issue for a few days.
Monday, August 25, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:45 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the classroom, it turns out it’s too hot.

Because the temperature today is expected to reach 100 degrees and because some schools are not fully air-conditioned, students will be dismissed starting at noon in the Columbia Public Schools.

Lange Middle School will be the last to shut its doors, at 2:15 p.m. Even schools that are air-conditioned will close early.

The district decided Sunday to release students early because of the weather forecast. Tuesday and Wednesday will be just as hot, but no decision had been made regarding dismissal times as of Sunday.

“We’re going to meet on a day-to-day basis,” said Chris Mallory, assistant superintendent of Columbia Public Schools.

Early dismissal will be decided no later than 10 p.m. the preceding day. Information on school dismissals will be relayed to parents through media outlets.

The first schools to close are those that are not fully air-conditioned. The district said that during the hours classrooms are open, students will get plenty of water breaks and fans will run in the hotter areas. The frequency of water breaks will be decided by each school.

“Every school handles things differently,” Mallory said.

Teachers and staff are briefed yearly on how to recognize heat-related illnesses, said Jacque Cowherd, deputy superintendent. Most of these briefings occur during teacher in-service days, he said.

District officials evaluate if the classrooms are fit for teaching and learning, Cowherd said. Some schools, such as Jefferson Junior High, have three stories, and the temperature varies from floor to floor, he said.

No specific criteria are used to determine the early dismissals, Cowherd said. Looking at a heat index for Columbia overall does not necessarily reflect the temperature inside a classroom, Cowherd said.

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