Heat sends children home early

Tuesday, August 26, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:50 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Columbia Public Library was Anne Hoylman’s first stop after picking up her son, Alex Gompper, from Ridgeway Elementary School at noon Monday.

The 6-year-old and more than 16,000 other students in the Columbia Public Schools were released early from the first day of classes because of the heat.

“It seemed cool this morning, but when I picked him up the kids were really sweaty,” Hoylman said, pausing in the children’s stacks of the well-chilled library. “I think the district made a good decision.”

Hoylman will have to wait for the weather to cool off before Alex can get a full day of first grade. With a high temperature of 102 degrees forecast for today, schools will again close early. Schools that are not fully air-conditioned will shut their doors at noon. Others will close by 2:15 p.m.

Alex’s school is not air-conditioned, but his classroom has a small window unit. The unit was on Monday — and it helped a little, he said.

The hot weather will continue through Thursday. However, Chris Mallory, assistant superintendent of the Columbia Public Schools, said the district will continue to decide whether to dismiss early on a day-to-day basis.

On Monday, Ridgeway Elementary sent children home with a note saying they are going to be released early today.

“I appreciate that, because it allows me to plan the day better,” Hoylman said.

Mallory said that the district was able to make a decision sooner on Monday but that parents should follow local media to see if schools will continue to close early. The district will decide on closing no later than 10 p.m. the preceding day, and the information will be broadcast on radio and television and printed in newspapers.

Alex said he was glad that school let out early.

“When you’re at school, if you’re there too long, you get homesick,” he said.

Although Alex is not new to school — after all, he is a kindergarten graduate — Hoylman said she agrees with other parents who say these half-days are a good transition for their children.

Sean and Meridith Green are both freshmen at West Junior High School. Looking to cool off after the early dismissal, the twins and their mother went to the Activity and Recreation Center.

“One good thing about the heat is that we get out of school early,” Sean said.

Their mother, Mary Green, said she had to cancel a float trip because of the heat. “I’ve been through three glasses of ice today,” she said.

Students won’t have to make up for the lost school hours, Mallory said — and there’s always a possibility that schools might be closed for an entire day. Stay tuned.

Missourian reporter David Yunker contributed to this story.

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