Trying To Keep Students Cool and Focused

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You’ve probably heard of too cool for school, but what about too hot? Some parents in Pueblo think the heat in the classroom is too much for their students to handle.

Around 180 to 200 students in District-60 stayed home from school Wednesday. That’s because most of the schools in the district are not fully air-conditioned. And with extreme temperatures outside, classrooms are becoming unbearable.

Temperatures at Highland Park Elementary are sweltering. Some classrooms are heating up to 90 degrees.

“It's like way hotter in our classroom than it is outside. It's like five or six degree hotter,” said 5th grader Adam Vasquez.

Students are certainly feeling the heat and doing everything they can to cool off.

“I brought a big bag of ice because its so hot so we could put it in our cooler and keep cool,” said 5th grader Makayla Keck.
The unimaginable heat is causing the school to change their schedule around and even change classrooms, emptying out the ones that are simply too hot.

“We’ve been using different parts of the building that is air-conditioned. We've been rotating students through there to give them a break from the heat,” said Highland Park Principal Alan Berry.

Highland Park elementary only has about 30 percent of its school air-conditioned. That is the similar story for most schools. While some are 95 percent air-conditioned, some are only 5 percent. Most of the classrooms in the district do not have A.C. That’s why students are allowed to wear cooler summer-like clothes, such as shorts and sandals.

D-60 officials also purchased hundreds of fans to make sure there is air flowing in each classroom. And everyday bottled water is delivered to each school, each classroom, and each student.

The schools are giving students frequent water breaks, limiting outdoor physical activity, and moving students in hot classrooms to cooler spaces.

“It's hard to focus because it’s too hot and the heats gets on you,” said Highland Park 5th grader Kimberly Linan.

About ten students were absent for Highland Park elementary
Wednesday, which was the anticipated hottest day of the week.

“To me, as the kids get hot they get antsy and want to move around and want to find a cool spot and they are not able to really study,” said Yolanda Rucker, parent of three Highland Park students.

But Rucker agreed with most parents 11 News spoke with, who said they want their kids to stay studying, even if that means they have to sweat it out.

“Sure it’s a little heartache, but I think they should still be in school,” said grandparent John Kovalcik.

Parents were given permission to keep their kids out of school is necessary because of the hot temperatures. Thursday is another optional attendance day. Students would receive an excused absence. But district officials want to make it clear; they want the students in the classroom, saying they are doing everything they can to keep students cool and focused.

“We encourage parents to allow their kids to come to school. We think that by working cooperatively with the health department, that we are still providing a safe learning environment and we do have to stay focused on education,” said Greg Sinn with D-60 Communications.

The district is continually working with the Pueblo City-County Health Department, who is monitoring the temperatures in the rooms to point out the problem areas. They are also making sure the students stay hydrated.

Health officials also encourage students to bring their own water bottles, and wash cloths from home to cool themselves off.

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Soaring temperatures in D-60 classroom has parents of students in Pueblo concerned. Now both city and school officials are agree it might be a health risk for some students to come to class where there is no air conditioning.

Public Health Officials are working with schools to prevent heat related illnesses during high heat days, especially in schools with little to no air conditioning. Late last week the Pueblo City-County Health Department received phone calls from concerned parents of students attending schools and staff working at the schools with hot temperatures.

“Having children in a very hot classroom is not a good learning environment or healthy for the child,” stated Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods public health director at the Pueblo City-County Health Department.

“Children, teachers and staff working inside hot buildings may be susceptible to heat related health issues. Of special concern are students or staff with medical conditions such as heart disease or pregnancy, those that are overweight as well as those on special medications for blood pressure, psychiatric illnesses. It would be advisable for individuals with these conditions to check with their doctor about staying in a hot environment for an extended period.”

She added special needs children are also at risk. Athletes who are exposed to high heats during the day and go outside to practice sports may be at increased risk of heat related illnesses.

Wednesday, August 31 is expected to be one of the hottest day of this week, Dr. Nevin-Woods is requesting employers of parents who will need to keep their children home or pick them up early due to the heat, be flexible and understanding. Pueblo City Schools is allowing students with parental permission to stay home from attending school due to heat. Also, students are allowed to dress students in loose fitting summer clothing and sandals; relaxed uniform requirements are in effect so that children and staff can wear short sleeve shirts, shorts and sandals if they choose.

The Pueblo City-County Health Department is working closely with Pueblo City School’s administration and school principals to develop plans for very hot classrooms. Some children and teachers in rooms above 90 degrees will need to move to cooler areas.

“Environmental Health Specialists are monitoring the temperature of the classrooms and the school buildings while working with the school district administration to monitor and control temperatures inside the buildings and the health of those in the building,” explained Dr. Nevin-Woods.