Tuesday, January 21, 2020
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Heat closure rules and events in 2 states

Heat and humidity built up so much in Champaign Central High School in Illinois that students were dismissed at 1:05 PM yesterday, according to an announcement posted on the District 4 website.

Weather records for Champaign, Illinois, for August 30:

  • 11:53 AM, 82°F, No wind, 72% humidity
  • 12:53 PM, 81°F, 6 mph, 77% humidity
  • 1:53 PM (light rain), 80°F, 6 mph, 81% humidity
  • 2:53 PM, 84°F, 5 mph, 72% humidity
  • 3:53 PM, 83°F, 10 mph, 74% humidity

With an air temperature of 84°F and relative humidity of 72 percent, as reported just before 3 PM, the heat index is higher than 91°F.

As far as I can determine from published documents, Unit District 4 has no official heat-release policy on the books, which means the release of students is handled on a case-by-case basis.

Champaign Central High School is the only school in Unit 4 that doesn’t have air conditioning, according to a report in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette.

“My first hour is on the third floor, and you can usually predict [an early dismissal] because you can feel it getting hotter and hotter as you go up the stairs,” the paper quoted one student as saying as he walked home on Monday. “It’s 8:15 AM, and it’s just so hot. It makes it significantly harder to concentrate.”

And while games or other activities were said to be unaffected by the emergency release, practices—like for the marching band—had to be canceled, giving students one less rehearsal to prepare their show for the first home football game on Friday.

As we reported last week, Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland, the nation’s 20th-largest district, adopted a policy that forces the superintendent to close any schools without air conditioning if the heat index is forecast to reach 90°F on a school day.

During the first four days of school, 37 buildings, including 10 high schools, were closed on two days, and the board reconsidered the policy at its regular meeting earlier this week, given the de facto 50-percent closure rate so far this school year at 37 schools.

The board will now close non-air-conditioned schools if the heat index is forecast to exceed 90°F by 11 AM. The initial policy had no time limit, WBAL-TV (NBC affiliate) reports.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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