Heat prompts early dismissals in Clark County schools

Buildings in the district lack air conditioning.

Hot weather prompted local officials to close schools early Monday and a soup kitchen opened as a cooling center.

Clark-Shawnee Local Schools, Greenon Local Schools and Southeastern Local Schools all dismissed students 1½ to 2 hours early due to excessive heat and lack of cooling in the school buildings. Also, the Springfield Soup Kitchen turned into a cooling center to help people beat the heat.

Southeastern plans to dismiss students two hours early again today, while the other districts said Monday they would continue to monitor the situation.

Highs reached the upper 80s Monday. Similar weather is expected Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Eric Elwell, WHIO StormCenter 7 Chief Meteorologist.

Clark-Shawnee Superintendent Gregg Morris said it is unusual for his school to close due to heat, but he said as temperatures continued to rise he felt it was the right thing to do.

“This heat just continues to grow and the building’s getting warmer and warmer,” Morris said. “And on Friday we had several (students) not feeling well. (Sunday) the heat was intense, the humidity was very high.”

Reid School PTO President Laura O’Connor, who has two children at Reid Elementary School, said she is concerned about students missing school days already.

“I somewhat feel it’s unnecessary maybe because I was just in the building volunteering and it is warm but it’s not…it was not excessively so to where you couldn’t function,” O’Connor said. “Yesterday was excessively hot so maybe they were trying to be forward thinking to not put the kids in a compromising position. But it maybe is to show a little bit of our need for new schools. I’m sure that people may not be aware of how aged the buildings are, so this kind of highlights the fact that it’s time to maybe update.”

Clark-Shawnee does have a levy on the ballot for the November election asking residents for funds to pay for new school buildings. Morris said the current buildings are mostly not air-conditioned.

“It’s one of the challenges we have,” Morris said. “These buildings have served the community really, really well through the years. And now we’re in a time when most kids are in a situation where there’s climate control.”

Jessica Craig, who is a parent of a fourth grade student at Possum Elementary School, said she approved the school district’s move to close school early.

“I thought it was a good idea with how hot is it,” Craig said. “I work out in the heat and it’s extreme. With them not having air conditioning it’s a good idea.”

Greenon Superintendent Brad Silvus said his school district has limited air conditioning. He said that on Friday he saw what adverse effects the heat can cause to a student’s ability to focus and learn.

“I was in the buildings multiple times monitoring and when we started getting temperatures in the mid-90s inside the building that is when we have to take a look,” Silvus said. “It is humid in the buildings.”

Silvus said officials at the school will continue to watch the temperatures and did not rule out another early dismissal this year.

Southeast Local Schools Superintendent David Shea said his district decided to close school early to protect their students.

“I think Thursday and Friday were pretty high heat days and it looks like Monday and Tuesday are going to be hot also,” Shea said. “When you have older buildings, you don’t have the air conditioning throughout the schools to cool it.”

He said temperatures in the mornings have not been too bad for students, but the late day heat had negative effects on the students’ learning environments.

At Springfield City Schools, an official said four buildings in the district partially lost power temporarily Monday morning due to storms.

Springfield City School District Spokesperson Scott Marshall said Springfield High School, the Service Center, Roosevelt Middle School, and Simon Kenton Elementary School had their air conditioning stop working in the morning. He said officials did not learn about the situation until 6:20 a.m., and many of the buses were already on the roads.

He said the electrical problem was not an issue for students or their learning environment.

“In the morning it was only 70 degrees,” Marshall said.

He said crews were able to fix the problem quickly and air conditioning was back on by 9 a.m.

Elwell’s forecast calls for “unseasonably warm” temperatures until midweek. Tuesday’s forecast high could reach the upper 80s with a slight chance for a pop-up storm.

Clark County Combined Health District Health Educator Anita Biles said the recent spike in temperatures can be dangerous.

“There is a big concern with the elderly, young people and people who are ill,” Biles said. “It is really important to stay hydrated.”

Biles said everyone should check on elderly family members and neighbors to ensure they are safe from the heat. She also said athletes or people who will be outside need to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

She said the recent weather has posed challenges to residents because it is continuous and not letting up when the sun goes down.

“One of the concerns with the heat is not so much its hot and humid, it’s that the temperatures don’t really come down at night,” Biles said. “When you have weather like we have had lately it is not dropping much in the evening.”

Biles said that is a problem because people who do not have air conditioning in their homes are not getting a break from the heat and that can have severe consequences. She said it is important to utilize the cooling centers when they are open.

Fred Stegner, who runs the Springfield Soup Kitchen, opened the doors to the kitchen Monday because of the heat.

Stegner said the kitchen works to get those in need a fan to help cool their homes.

“(The heat) is just stifling and they can’t stay in their apartment or house,” Stegner said.

Anna Kilgore said the kitchen helped her family a few weeks ago when she said her home started to heat up. She took the time Monday to volunteer at the kitchen to help others.

“We came for a cooling center and they were able to get us a fan,” Kilgore said. “I came in (this time) for the community service.”

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