How schools tackle extreme heat without AC


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With the start of the 2019-2020 school year right around the corner, News 8 decided to look into the number of districts fully equipped with air conditioning.

News 8 reached out to dozens of West Michigan superintendents to see if their classrooms are fully equipped with air conditioning. Out of the ones who responded, these are the districts that don’t have air conditioning in every classroom: Vestaburg Community Schools, Reeths-Puffer Schools, Montague Area Public Schools, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, Holton Public Schools, Hastings Area Schools, Portage Public Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Plainwell Community Schools, Fruitport Community Schools and Gull Lake Community Schools.

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Polston said when high temperatures arise, he consults the National Weather Service heat index chart for guidance on when to close. He also follows guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on when to take caution and the Michigan High School Athletic Association guidelines on when to cancel sports practice and competitions. 

“Two years ago, we did have a day in which we dismissed early due to heat and that was the first time many could recall any such day,” said Polston. 

When it comes to sending students home or cancelling school for the day due to extreme heat, it’s up to the district’s superintendent. There is no threshold on how hot is too hot to have students in class. Although, some superintendents must consider more than the heat when it comes to early dismissal.  

“Having students in school as opposed to keeping them home may in fact be in their best interest,” said Grand Rapids Public Schools spokesperson John Helmholdt. “They’re going to be able to get free breakfast, free lunch. We have the staff that are monitoring the conditions.” 

Helmholdt said in some cases it’s a better environment for students than their home. 

Although, when high temperatures strike and students are kept at school, Helmholdt said temperatures are monitored and extra precautions are taken.

“We get fans in, we bring in extra water, we turn off the lights. If it’s a multi-story building, we will try to pull those kids from the top stories and bring them down to the lower level,” said Helmholdt. “Anything we can do to make it as comfortable as possible but also to ensure teaching and learning continues.” 

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