Chicago Weather

Suburban district delays start of new year, CPS promises A/C in all schools amid heat wave

Downers Grove Grade School District 58 announced Monday that it was delaying the start of school from Wednesday to Friday "due to the forecast of extreme heat conditions in our area"

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As the Chicago area braces for dangerously hot temperatures, some schools are making changes to battle the conditions, including one district's postponement of the start of the new school year.

Downers Grove Grade School District 58 announced Monday that it was delaying the start of school from Wednesday to Friday "due to the forecast of extreme heat conditions in our area."

"Our primary focus is ensuring a safe and conducive learning environment for everyone. This has been a difficult decision and one we hoped we didn’t have to make," District Supt. Dr. Kevin Russell said in a letter to parents. "Unfortunately, our classrooms and most areas of our schools are not equipped with air conditioning nor modern HVAC systems, which can cause significant issues for individuals in extreme weather. By postponing the start of school by two days, we aim to provide a more favorable environment for effective teaching and learning."

The district noted that it is currently working toward "long-term solutions to improve these conditions" and apologized for the inconvenience to parents and families.

At the same time, the first day of school for students in the Chicago Public Schools system has already arrived, and the district says it is prepared for the adverse conditions.

Heat indices could exceed 110 degrees in some locations later this week, with air temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s, according to forecast models.

Facing that type of strain, the district says all CPS classrooms have functioning air conditioning as the classes begin on Monday, and that workers will “provide temporary cooling where possible” if there are issues with cooling systems within schools.

The district also limits outdoor activity time during periods of hot weather, according to a statement.

“Keeping students and staff safe, healthy, cool and comfortable as they return to school this week is our number one priority,” CPS officials said in a statement. “As we enter a new school year, Chicago Public Schools is working with school leaders to ensure every school building is ready to host new and returning students this week.”

In Downers Grove, Russell said days in which the temperatures are "warm, but not oppressive" the district also plans to implement "heat relief protocols," such as rotating classrooms through designated "cooling areas," offering frequent water breaks, turning on fans and more.

The Chicago Teachers Union said it will keep a sharp eye on conditions within schools, and will work to ensure safety for staff and students alike.

“This week, we’ll have temperatures that may go into the triple digits… our members, our students, our young people will have to contend with that heat,” president Stacy Davis Gates said.

Pedro Martinez, the CEO of CPS, noted maintenance crews have stepped up efforts to ensure all classrooms are climate-controlled for the start of the school year.

Chicago Public Schools started its new year Monday, just ahead of a potentially dangerous heat wave hitting the city. Patrick Fazio reports on how the district is bracing for the hot temperatures.

“Our team has worked been working around the clock all of last week, this weekend. Any systems are having issues. We're getting those resolved,” he said.

He said all classrooms will either have central air conditioning or window-mounted air conditioning units, and that the district is working to rectify any issues in hallways, libraries and other areas.

Both Davis Gates and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson have said their vision on the issue is longer-term than a one-off heat wave, saying that the ongoing effects of climate change need to be addressed by the district.

“How does our district then retrofit or build new spaces that respond to the climate catastrophe that we’re living in right now?” Davis Gates said.

Johnson says he intends to work with CPS and the CTU for long-term solutions related to heat waves, which can cause disruptions in numerous facets of school life.

“Climate justice is an important part of my administration as we see extreme weather impacting the entire country,” he said.

The hot weather will likely subside by Friday, with cooler readings expected over the weekend.

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