Schools staying open as temps go up



The heat wave that has trapped the Bay Area in searing hot temperatures, threatened the state’s power grid and created dirtier-than-normal air has not been able to knock out schools yet.

School districts throughout the hottest portions of the South Bay and East Bay said Tuesday they had no plans to close or send home students early. Schools within the Oakland Unified School District were also open.

At the East Side Union High School District in San Jose, where the forecast high for Tuesday was 107 degrees, instruction was slated to continue as usual throughout the week, though some flexibility was expected to accommodate the heat.

Athletic practices across the district were cancelled on Tuesday, and the district reminded students and parents that golf matches and cross-country meets have been postponed in the Blossom Valley Athletic League for the week.

The district stated that all of its classrooms have “up-to-date” HVAC systems with thermostats set to maintain 72 degrees, but that some facilities including gyms and locker rooms are not consistently air-conditioned. In those scenarios, the district said “teachers and staff will adjust activities in these spaces in order to support student safety.”

“We will adjust activities as needed for the forecasted high temperatures,” reads a post on the district website. “We remind students to stay hydrated at home and at school.”

The San Jose Unified School District sent and posted a similar letter about keeping classes open and providing air conditioning for students, and stating that in the event of an HVAC breakdown or loss, “classroom teachers can temporarily relocate to a space with functioning air conditioning.”

But Amy Hibbs, whose child attends Willow Glen High School, said that campus has been dealing with air-conditioning shortages since the start of the school year; she said she was concerned that there might not be enough space to relocate students as the district mentioned. She said her child texted her Tuesday morning reporting that they were in a room with a temperature well above the 75-degree threshold stated in the district’s letter.

“It’s like 86 degrees in her classroom,” Hibbs said. “I feel jerked around as a parent.”

Hibbs said the air-conditioning and heating issues at the school have to be definitively solved given that she expects more severe weather going forward.

“Climate change is going to generate these extreme heat events or extreme cold events,” she said. “A foundational system needs to be in place, and it needs to be working.”

In interior parts of the East Bay, schools cancelled practices and kept elementary school children in from recess as if it was a rainy day.

“We’re going the best we can to avoid the weather,” Brentwood Union School District Superintendent Dana Eaton said. “We’re making sure kids get plenty to drink. We do that anyway, but teachers are more aware. We have cold-water stations available, too.”

Classes and athletic practices continued throughout the Mount Diablo Unified School District, though under the guidance of guidelines set by the Contra Costa County Health Office. Those guidelines require frequent water breaks, frequent periods of rest and less strenuous work.

“Our schools are all air-conditioned,” Mount Diablo Unified School District spokeswoman Theresa Harrington said via email. “We also have hydration stations on all campuses for filling water bottles and most schools have picnic tables with umbrellas, as well as solar shade structures.”

At least one school did close its doors Tuesday: Laney College in Oakland closed its campus in response to the high temperatures. Online courses continued, and a message on the college’s web site said officials were monitoring the situation for Wednesday.

Please check back for updates.



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