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Article posted: 10/16/2013 4:05 PM

Lake Zurich District 95 considering development of excessive heat policy

Lisa Warren

Lisa Warren

 
Andrea Trudeau

Andrea Trudeau

 
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Lake Zurich Unit District 95 is considering the possibility of creating a formal policy addressing how to handle extreme heat at schools without air conditioning.

Administrators, teachers and board members meeting as District 95's policy review committee touched on the topic Wednesday morning. Two committee members will research whether there are existing policies at other school systems that could be incorporated at District 95, and are expected to present their findings at a session Nov. 20.

Five of eight District 95 schools are not centrally air-conditioned, which led to some parental concern when a heat wave hit early in the current academic year.

Efforts are made to keep students comfortable in the extreme heat, officials said, including rotating them into limited air-conditioned areas in the five schools. Other measures to help pupils and staff include using large fans, opening windows for cross ventilation, and making available cold water and ice pops for hydration.

But like 15 area school systems that were contacted for information before Wednesday's meeting, District 95 does not have a formal policy regarding procedures on handling excessive heat in buildings without air conditioning, Human Resources Director Julia Becich said. Statewide education organizations also apparently do not offer generic policies for schools.

Kathy Perkins, who heads the Lake Zurich Education Association union and is an instructor at Sarah Adams Elementary School, is one of the committee members who will look into heat policies. She said development of a formal policy and procedures will show parents and others District 95 is addressing the issue in the short term.

"I think it would be a good thing to look at," Perkins said. "If we're one of the first in the area to develop a policy, good for us. I just think it takes some of the guesswork out. It gives some consistency to how we deal with the situation."

In a newsletter to parents, Superintendent Michael Egan said a recent update of a 2007 study by RuckPate Architecture of Barrington shows retrofitting air conditioning into older structures typically is an expensive proposition, with a likely total cost for the five schools topping $20 million.

Egan said the District 95 school board has sanctioned a feasibility study for air conditioning the five schools.

Board member Lisa Warren said the community should be informed when certain suggestions surface, but cannot be pursued. For example, she said, state law doesn't allow school to be postponed due to heat and made up on previously scheduled holidays.

"Just sort of giving that feedback of, 'Great idea, but this is why it doesn't work,'" Warren said.

Parent Andrea Trudeau of Kildeer launched an online petition to push for air conditioning after the school season featured temperatures in the 90s for most of the week of Aug. 26. She and other parents brought their concerns to a school board meeting last month.

Along with a desire for air conditioning, some parents suggested starting school later. Trudeau, a teacher at Deerfield Elementary District 109, said her two children came home with a variety of heat-related maladies during the first two weeks of school.

Twitter: @DHBobSusnjara

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