By Anne Marie Amacher
Although temperatures have cooled down considerably over the holiday weekend, last week’s blast of heat and humidity affected several schools whether they had air conditioning or not.
Prince of Peace Catholic Schools in Clinton are air conditioned, said Karen Witt, development director. Even through the entire school has air conditioning, she said gym classes were held inside and outdoor recess was shortened. “The playground has plenty of shade and we keep the students hydrated,” she said. Students and teachers are allowed water bottles during the school day.
No early dismissals occurred because most of the public schools in the Clinton Community School District are air conditioned.
Although parts of Assumption High School in Davenport are air conditioned, the school had early dismissal with non-air-conditioned public and Catholic schools Sept. 1 and 2 because of the busing schedule. If air-conditioned spaces at Assumption weren’t already in use teachers had the option to use them, said Principal Chuck Elbert. The library, computer labs, board room, wrestling and weight rooms and offices have air conditioning. Students are allowed water bottles in class and fans were set throughout the school, including the hallways and lunch room. For gym class, shaded areas and the wrestling and weight rooms were used.
Portable air-conditioning units were added at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport, thanks to donations from parents. But even those were not strong enough for heat indices that exceeded 100 degrees, said Principal Julie Delaney. The Early Learning Center, media center and offices have central air, she said. Gym classes were held in the parish center, which was air conditioned. Teachers used fans in addition to the portable air conditioners and were allowed to take students to air-conditioned areas of the church and parish facilities that were not being used. Students were encouraged to have water bottles in class and a reminder was sent to parents to send water with students. Like Assumption, St. Paul released students early Sept. 1 and 2.
At Burlington Notre Dame Schools, the majority of classrooms are not air conditioned, said elementary Principal Bob Carr. So far this year Notre Dame schools have had three early dismissals: Aug. 24 and Sept. 1-2. Since the majority of Burlington Public Schools are air conditioned, they did not have early dismissal, so buses did not run until regular dismissal time. “We do have daycare available for elementary school students in an air-conditioned room,” Carr said. Students whose parents could not pick them up early were able to “remain comfortable at school until regular dismissal time.”
To deal with the heat elsewhere, teachers were advised to utilize the air-conditioned rooms that were available when possible. Those include libraries, computer labs, elementary gym, high school vocal music, preschool classrooms and daycare. Recess for elementary students was held in the air-conditioned gym and water bottles were allowed in all classrooms.
Early dismissal was unnecessary at Seton Catholic School in Ottumwa, which has individual air conditioners in all classrooms, library, cafeteria and office area, said Principal Duane Sipeker. Ottumwa public schools also are air-conditioned, so buses ran as scheduled for Catholic and public schools.
Only one classroom and the offices at St. James Catholic School in Washington have air conditioning. Because of the heat, school let out early Sept. 1-2 – due in part to public school busing, said Principal Teresa Beenblossom.
Parents have donated several fans to the school throughout the years to keep students and staff cooler she noted. Gym and recess are on the same time schedule, but extra water breaks are allowed as needed.
About 50 percent of the classroom space at John F. Kennedy Catholic in Davenport is air conditioned and all of the new spaces in the school building project will be air conditioned as well, said Principal Chad Steimle.
Although Davenport Community Schools gives the choice of two busing schedules due to some schools having air conditioning while others don’t, JFK chose to dismiss early.
The physical eduation teacher selected different activities that are less strenuous and makes sure students take frequent breaks to cope with the heat.
“The biggest problem we face at this time of year is trying to cool the building after being closed over night. Temperatures in the evenings, nights and mornings may actually be pleasant, but because school buildings are closed up at about 4 p.m. and not re-opened until about 7 a.m., it is difficult to take advantage of the cool outdoor air.
Early dismissal was not needed at Keokuk Catholic Schools due to air conditioning throughout the entire building, said Principal Laura Marsot. Busing issues were not a problem either, she noted.
At Holy Trinity Catholic Schools, the elementary building in West Point does not have air conditioning while the Early Childhood Centers in Fort Madison and St. Paul do, said Theresa Twaddle, ECC director and elementary principal.
School was let out early because of busing with the public school systems, she noted. Water bottles are allowed in the classroom.