By Terry Dean
Several parents with students attending school in District 97 say they want something done to improve conditions in the buildings during periods of extreme heat.
Seven parents took their complaints to the District 97 school board on Sept. 10, a day on which schools were kept open as outdoor temperatures reached the 90s.
The group included mostly Longfellow parents and one from Hatch, who said their kids have had to endure hot classrooms with no air-conditioning. Speaking during the public comments portion of Tuesday's school board meeting, many were visibly upset at the board and Supt. Albert Roberts, who was present.
Several dared the board to hold its meeting in one of Longfellow's blazing-hot third-floor classrooms. They also demanded both a short-term and long-term plan to deal with the problem.
The parents said it wasn't just about this string of hot weather in the last week. They said heating and cooling problems have persisted in several buildings.
One parent at the meeting criticized the district for not having an adequate, detailed plan for what to do during extremely hot days. The elementary schools do not have air conditioning while the middle schools do.
Some parents said the buildings should be closed during extreme heat days.
In response, Roberts said he also heard from parents who wanted the schools to remain open and not lose instruction days. But the parents at the meeting said teachers and students can't work productively in such extreme heat.
Roberts said the district is addressing the heat problem by having frequent water breaks for students and staff. Cases of water have been delivered to the schools, and outdoor activities have been limited, Roberts said.
Principals have also been rotating classes to cooler areas of their buildings, Roberts said.
Concerning long-term planning, board President Bob Spatz said that the district has a 10-year capital improvement plan, which includes addressing cooling and heating. The district's Facilities Advisory Committee is working on the issue as well, Spatz said.
Parents also criticized the district for pursuing a new administration building versus dealing with heating problems in elementary school buildings. Spatz said the district has been considering a new building for several years but there are no immediate plans to build a new one.
Parents emailed board members and the superintendent prior to Tuesday's meeting with their complaints. Some said they weren't going to send their kids to school because of the excessive heat in the buildings.
According to D97 spokesperson Chris Jasculca, seven children stayed home Tuesday and 18 kids were picked up after lunch by their parents.