Educators in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 are preparing for the first -- and the hottest -- weeks of the school year armed with upgraded infrastructure to control high temperatures.
Nineteen schools with classrooms that were not temperature-controlled have been outfitted with partial ductless air-conditioning systems in an attempt to beat the heat.
The systems were installed at 100 classrooms across the 19 elementary schools constructed without full air conditioning.
"They're all set to turn on," Todd DePaul, director of building operations, said about the new systems, which will cool roughly four classrooms at each school.
District 204, which covers parts of Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook and Plainfield, spent $2.7 million to install the air conditioning this year. Board members approved the project in January after a focus group convened in response to school cancellations caused by heat waves recommended partial air conditioning as the most cost-effective solution.
DePaul said the district plans to fire up the new air conditioners Wednesday morning before a teacher work day that precedes the start of school Thursday for the district's 28,500 students. The systems will be programmed to turn on slightly before school begins and shut off after dismissal each day they're in use.
Now that the systems are in place, principals will check a calculation called effective temperature to determine if air conditioning should be used.
Sensors in four classrooms in each school building measure effective temperature as a calculation of indoor temperature and humidity readings, minus any effect that could be caused by sunlight. If the effective temperature reaches 75 degrees for four hours or longer, principals will turn on the ductless air conditioning in their buildings.
Educators will begin a rotation to give students and teachers whose rooms aren't air-conditioned a turn in a cooled area if the effective temperature is 80 degrees or higher for at least four hours.
Cooling best practices also will be compiled, including strategies such as moving second-floor classes down to first-floor gyms or moving outside when appropriate.
Board President Lori Price said high-temperature practices haven't fundamentally changed, but they were updated to reflect the installation of partial air conditioning.
She said the project aims to provide more comfortable learning conditions and save the district money it would lose in per-student funding if educators had to cancel school at some buildings, which would make daily attendance drop.