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updated: 9/10/2013 9:36 AM

Dist. 204 teachers, parents plead for solution to hot schools

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  • Brookdale Elementary School is one of the schools closed today because it lacks air conditioning and temperatures are climbing into the mid-90s. Parents want an A/C solution.

      Brookdale Elementary School is one of the schools closed today because it lacks air conditioning and temperatures are climbing into the mid-90s. Parents want an A/C solution.
    Daily Herald file photo


Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the title of Val Dranias. She is president of the Indian Prairie Education Association.

Indian Prairie Unit District 204 fourth-grade teacher Susie Duval said she's a hardy gardener who doesn't wilt in the heat, but conditions got to her during a steamy first week of school and sent her to the hospital with heat exhaustion.

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Duval was one of about 25 teachers and parents who made impassioned pleas to the school board Monday for better solutions to the excessive heat in schools without air conditioning.

Although the district canceled school Tuesday at the 20 buildings without air conditioning and is working to create a committee to study its "heat plan," Duval said the issue needs attention beyond a temporary fix.

"This should not go away because the temperature drops," the veteran teacher at Brooks elementary said.

With rooms temperatures reaching into the 90s or higher, loud fans blowing hot air around and students getting nosebleeds and headaches, conditions in the district's 20 schools without air conditioning were unbearable and unsafe, speakers said.

"Students cannot learn in these conditions nor can teachers teach," said Val Dranias, president of the Indian Prairie Education Association, the union representing teachers in the district, which serves students in portions of Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook and Plainfield.

Most speakers applauded the district's move to cancel school Tuesday at non-air conditioned buildings. And Drainas said the committee the district is forming to study its "heat plan" for how to handle excessively hot days is a positive step.

"Calling off school cannot be the only alternative," she said.

The heat committee is expected to begin meeting later this month. It will have representation by a parent, teacher, staff member or administrator from every school that is not air-conditioned and its focus will be on finding solutions the board can implement, Superintendent Kathy Birkett said.

An engineering consultant in 2009 determined it would cost $1.9 million to retrofit each building that does not have air conditioning, for a total of $36.1 million. A separate study in 2008 found window air conditioning units may not be effective because they work against classroom ventilation systems and decrease air quality.

"Our current heat plan is not effective," said parent Robin Taylor, whose two children attend May Watts elementary. "I'm here hoping solutions and changes can be made."

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