Heat watch: Schools switch to e-learning, delay start to deal with dangerous heat

Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Chicago area schools brace for heat wave
Schools in Chicgao and the suburbs are getting buildings ready and changing extracurricular schedules to handle two days of extreme heat and humidity.

HARVEY, Ill. (WLS) -- Schools across the Chicago area are taking precautions with oppressive heat and humidity

Chicago Public Schools announced that all outdoor games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday have been canceled, and all athletics practices must be canceled or moved indoors due to the excessive heat that's forecast.

While CPS said all their classrooms are air conditioned, students are encouraged to bring full water bottles to school and will be able to refill them throughout the day, classes in rooms exposed to sunlight will be moved to auditoriums, interior or lower-level rooms, and recess and gym classes will all be held indoors.

"There have been times where my son has come home and said that it was hot in the school. Just praying that these next couple of days is not a day where we deal with those issues," said CPS parent Candice Battle.

CPS said its facilities team will be working with schools to respond to any problem, and will have portable air conditioning units available.

"They come in here to learn, so they need, they need a comfortable environment, so I'm concerned about it, really. Yes I am," said Lavonne Green, grandparent of a CPS student.

Schools will also turn off overhead lights and unused equipment in classrooms, and administrators will be keeping an eye on students who take certain medications ot ensure they stay hydrated.

Downers Grove School District 58 pushed back the start of school while other districts have switched to e-learning due to oppressively heat this week.

In the suburbs, Thornton Township High School's track team in Harvey moved their outdoor afternoon practice to the morning to take advantage of cooler tempeatures. Coach Vince McAuliffe kept a close eye on his athletes.

"These next three days are going to be brutal and I think our kids' safety should be number one over everything," McAuliffe said.

READ MORE: How and where to stay cool during the Chicago heat wave

The Glenbard High School football team in Glen Ellyn started practice at 5:30 a.m. The principal said other teams will be practicing indoors.

Elmhurst's school superintendent sent a note to the school community warning of the excessive heat, and outlining the district's plans to limit outdoor activities as warranted.

Downers Grove District 58 decided to delay the start of school from Wednesday to Friday.

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Doctor Evelyn Huang is in the ER at Northwestern Memorial Hospital talks about the dangers from the extreme heat.

The district has 5,000 students and 700 staff members in 13 K-through-eight schools, and administrators said all but two of those schools have little or no air conditioning. Superintendent Kevin Russell said he did not want to have to delay the start of the year, and in fact waited until Monday to make sure the dangerous heat was still in the forecast, but in the end the decision came down to safety.

"Staff and kids, there's health concerns. Whenever it's that hot, it is really challenging to sit in a space for six, seven hours. Also, though, we really want to make sure that our learning is effective and that our teachers can be successful delivering their lesson plans," he said.

Lyons Township High School District 204 and Woodland School District 50 will release students early. LaGrange School District 105 will also operate on a half-day schedule.

Thornton Township High School District 205 moved to e-learning Tuesday through Thursday. Parent Aisha Pickett said she was able to adjust.

"They just started, so it's like I haven't quite gotten acclimated to them going back to school, so it's fine," Pickett said.

Meanwhile, according to IHSA rules, schools across the state may have to cut practices short due to the extreme weather.

Coach McAuliffe said his runners made the decision to come in early to get a full practice in.

"Running in the middle of the day is probably not the wisest thing, so we're training smarter not harder," McAuliffe said.

According to the Thornton Township High School District 205 website, meals will be available for pick up at schools Tuesday and Thursday. In-person learning resumes Friday.