Some schools sweating through heat wave without air conditioning
With the heat index inching closer to 100 degrees this week, students in some suburban schools are trying to keep cool without the benefit of air conditioning in the classroom.
Keeping the lights off, fans on and water breaks frequent are just some of the strategies to keep thousands of students comfortable as temperatures soar. Other schools are rotating students into air-conditioned libraries or computer labs to cool off, and some are even canceling classes to avoid the heat.
At Lake Zurich Unit District 95, five of eight schools don't have central air conditioning. District spokeswoman Jean Malek said students can cool off in the air-conditioned libraries.
Other extreme heat measures include officials ensuring children are properly hydrated throughout the day and reducing activity levels in physical education classes.
"It's just using common sense," Malek said.
Only two of the three buildings at Our Lady of the Wayside Catholic School in Arlington Heights have air conditioning, but Principal David Wood said students will rotate through the buildings during the hot weather this week.
Students in Wheeling Township Elementary District 21, where none of the buildings are air-conditioned, and Indian Prairie Unit District 204, where 19 elementary schools do not have air conditioning, are also rotating students through cooler parts of the school.
It's a similar situation in Prospect Heights Elementary District 23, where two elementary schools won't have air conditioning installed until next summer, said Superintendent Deb Wilson. Their older peers at McArthur Middle School just got air conditioning this week.
Students at the two oldest high schools in Glenbard High School District 87 -- Glenbard East in Lombard and Glenbard West in Glen Ellyn -- are in the same boat as the younger students in Prospect Heights. On Monday night, the school board voted to authorize the sale of $20 million in bonds intended to accelerate work at all four district high schools, including the addition of air conditioning to all areas of East and West.
Although all buildings in Palatine Township Elementary District 15 have air conditioning, Superintendent Scott Thompson said fans are placed in buildings where the system is not as efficient. Teachers will ensure students remain hydrated and district officials are monitoring the heat index to determine whether outdoor activities should be held, he said.
The heat also is affecting after-school activities.
Libertyville High School coaches are shortening practices and drills this week because of the heat, Athletic Director Briant Kelly said. They've also been reminded to make sure athletes drink water before, during and after practice.
Libertyville's athletic workouts are changing in other ways, too. For example, the cross country team normally runs around town. This week the runners will stay on campus, Kelly said.
Other schools are making plans for Tuesday, when the National Weather Service predicts the temperature could reach the upper 90s with a heat index above 100.
West Aurora District 129 will release students early Tuesday, with high school students being dismissed at 10:40 a.m. and sports practices being held immediately after dismissal, according to a news release. All students will be dismissed by noon.
"The district will monitor the weather for the remainder of the week in case additional early release days are needed to protect the health and safety of students and staff," the release said.
Officials at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School in West Dundee will dismiss students at noon, and students can ditch their uniforms in favor of more comfortable clothes, such as shorts and T-shirts, Assistant Principal Mary Pat Johnson said. Kids are allowed to drink water throughout the day.
"It is a bit of a distraction because you're trying to get your school year going," Johnson said. "But there's nothing you can do."
• Staff writers Kimberly Pohl, Lenore Adkins, Russell Lissau, Marie Wilson, Christopher Placek and Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.