FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — Tuesday’s extreme head coincided with the start of the school year for several school districts who operate without air conditioning.
Some administrators said they were worried the mandatory mask-wearing in class, coupled with the high temperatures, could pose a health risk to students.
In Freeport, middle and high school students shifted to e-learning, and in Amboy classes let out early.
“It was 85 degrees at 7 a.m. this morning,” said Amboy Superintendent Joshua Nichols. “You can teach, you do the best you can. You get the fans going, you get the windows open. That’s one of the reasons we dismiss early, ’cause these old brick buildings just hold heat.”
Nichols used the school district’s heat index policy to let classes out early.
“When the heat index rises over 97 degrees, we will go to the two-hour dismissal, 1:30 p.m. So, we still get our five clock hours in for the day, so it still counts as a day of instruction,” he said.
Freeport’s Superintendent Dr. Anna Alvardo, said calling off classes is a tough call to make.
“It’s the first day of school. That’s a tradition, right? You’re excited, you don’t sleep the night before. We just wanted a normal opening to the school year. Was that too much to ask?” she said.
“That heat just accumulates, just packs it all in there, and it just creates this condition that you nor I would want to be in,” she added.
Alvardo said the heat and the Illinois school mask mandate for students and teachers made her worry about safety.
“I know some parents will say, ‘I’ve been to those buildings when it was it was 90 degrees.’ But, you didn’t have to put a mask on,” she said.
Despite Tuesday’s rough start, both Alvardo and Nichols say they’re excited to have students back in class.
“Shoutout to our parents and families, who have been great partners in this work,” said Alvardo.
Nichols said, “I’m very happy to have kids back in school. When you look at the buildings over the summer, it gets a little quiet and it’s a place designed to have lots of people in it.”
Both schools said they are in the process of installing air conditioners in the buildings, and they will continue to monitor the heat for the rest of this week to reassess plans, if needed.