Lake Zurich Unit District 95 officials searching for an excessive heat policy for schools without air conditioning may want to study one being used by a rural Illinois district.
Jeff Thake, superintendent of Amboy Unit District 272, called attention to his heat policy on Twitter after seeing a Daily Herald story last week about District 95 considering creating formal guidelines for its buildings without air conditioning.
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District 95 administrators, teachers and board members met as a policy review committee and agreed two members will research whether regulations and procedures exist at other school systems that could be used. The findings are to be presented at the next 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 the week of Aug. 26. Temperatures were in the 90s most of that week.
Thake said Amboy's school board passed its heat policy in October 2012. Before the matter went to the board, he said, he found an excessive-heat policy at Champaign Unit District 4 and tailored it to fit Amboy's needs.
"Like most school districts without 100 percent air-conditioned facilities, we needed a plan," he said Monday.
The Illinois State Board of Education allows several options for schools to deal with extreme heat, including early dismissal or using an emergency day that calls off classes for an entire district and requires a makeup day.
Amboy officials created a policy that allows dismissal after five hours of instruction when circumstances dictate. The formal policy led to seven early dismissals due to excessive heat during this academic year at a high school, elementary building and junior high, Thake said. Amboy is about 55 miles south of Rockford and is the second-largest geographic school district in Illinois.
Under Amboy's policy, multiple weather forecasting sources must be reviewed and classes will end early if the outside heat index -- a combination of temperature and humidity -- tops 97 degrees.
Thake said the heat policy isn't perfect. For example, he said, because the policy requires checking more than one weather source, it becomes a problem if there is disagreement.
Parents, students and staff members must be notified no later than 11 a.m. if the superintended opts for early dismissal, according to Amboy's policy.
Word is spread through telephone calls, the district's Facebook page and website, or local media if the decision is made in advance of an excessive-heat forecast.
"The policy, for the most part, has gone smoothly. Students, parents, and staff have been very supportive of the policy," Thake said.
District 95's school board has sanctioned a feasibility study about installing central air conditioning in the five schools. In a newsletter to parents, Superintendent Michael Egan said a recent update of a 2007 study by RuckPate Architecture of Barrington shows it could cost $20 million to cool the five buildings.
District 95 Human Resources Director Julia Becich said at last week's meeting that 15 area school systems were surveyed and none has formal procedures for excessive heat in buildings without air conditioning.
Amboy's excessive heat policy outlines building plans, such as keeping shades closed on the side of a building receiving the most sun, turning off electronic equipment not in use and allowing students to carry water bottles for hydration.