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Southland schools adapt plans, schedules for the extreme heat

As the Chicago area braces for intense heat Wednesday and Thursday, south and southwest suburban schools are taking precautions such as having extra fans inside buildings and postponing events.

Regional high schools say that sports practices are being moved indoors where practical, and some high school sports tournaments are being put off until sweltering heat and humidity ease.

According to the National Weather Service, Wednesday will see a high of 97 degrees with heat index values as high as 110. By Thursday, the high will be 99 degrees, according to the weather service.

Beginning Wednesday, the area will be under an excessive heat warning and from Wednesday night through Thursday night the area will be under an excessive heat watch, according to the weather service.

Lockport Township High School District 205 has been monitoring the weather, said Superintendent Robert McBride, and has moved its curriculum night scheduled at Central Campus for Wednesday night to be a prerecorded virtual event.

Central Campus, an old building with just window-unit air conditioning, will have some time to cool down ahead of Thursday without people inside the building Wednesday night, McBride said.

“We, right now, are not planning any interruption to school operations, although we have asked our staff to review online learning,” McBride said. “We have a long year ahead of us, we can only do five e-learning emergency days, so we do want to consider those in case we have other weather events.”

For athletics, McBride said the district is following Illinois High School Association heat policy, which states if temperatures are over 89.9 degrees the day of practice there should be no outdoor workouts.

The IHSA heat policy states that temperature and humidity readings have to be taken 30 minutes before an activity and every 30 minutes after the activity starts.

The policy also states that cooling stations, like shade, ice towels or misting fans, and plenty of water have to be available before, during and after the activity.

“We are following to a T everything that the IHSA requires for athletics, in terms of monitoring, hydrating, testing and seeing what the heat is,” McBride said.

Lincoln-Way East postponed its Thursday football game to Saturday because of the heat, according to district officials.

Community High School District 218, which spans most of Blue Island and Chicago Ridge, moved practice times from after school to before school to comply with these temperature restrictions, according to public information officer Bob McParland.

Orland Park Elementary District 135, which starts school Wednesday, is taking precautions against the heat, according to a letter to parents from Superintendent John Bryk.

The district will place fans and air conditioners inside classrooms, Bryk said, and may keep blinds closed during peak heat. Physical education classes and recess periods will be held indoors with reduced strenuous activity, he said, and students are encouraged to wear lightweight clothing and bring water to school.

“We want to ensure that our students remain safe and comfortable at school,” Bryk said.

At Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Flossmoor, physical education classes are moved inside through Thursday, and events such as practice for girls tennis and boys soccer are moved indoors until the heat abates, said Carla Erdey, a spokeswoman for the district.

In Bremen High School District 228, which includes schools in Country Club Hills, Midlothian, Oak Forest and Tinley Park, schools plan to use indoor facilities for any practices or tryouts that can be switched to indoors, said Yasmeen Sheikah, a spokeswoman for the district.

Some outdoor sports events will be rescheduled, such as cross-country competitions that had been set for Thursday between the boys and girls teams from the district’s Oak Forest and Tinley Park High Schools.

In Rich Township High School District 227, a soccer game that had been set for Wednesday is being rescheduled, and other practices that would normally be held outside are being moved indoors Wednesday and Thursday, according to Matthew Shank, district athletics director.

Cook County Elementary District 130, with schools in Alsip, Blue Island and Crestwood, announced on Facebook that outdoor activities scheduled to be held outside Wednesday and Thursday will be moved inside.

Also, school uniforms will be optional both days, with students told they can wear “light-colored clothing” instead.

Prairie-Hills Elementary District 144, with schools in Country Club Hills, Hazel Crest, Markham and Oak Forest, said on its Facebook page Tuesday that air conditioning upgrades have been made at all schools in preparation for the start of school Wednesday for prekindergarten through eighth grade, and bottled water will be available in all school buildings.

Wolcott Elementary District 154, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade in Thornton, is keeping students in the building for recess, according administrative assistant Martha Ruiz.

South Holland Elementary District 151 canceled all outside activities including practice and recess.

Thornton Township High School District 205 made the call Tuesday to shift to remote learning after determining the schools’ air conditioning systems are less reliable than the cooling systems in most families’ homes.

“Their HVAC systems are in need of repair and so the district felt that it was far safer for students to shift to e-learning in their homes versus being in the buildings where the HVAC system will not be able to chill the building sufficiently in this type of heat,” said public relations manager Mary Ann Thornton.

Thornton said there are already plans up address the faulty air conditioning system, but supply shortages have delayed the upgrades.

The district plans to keep students and teachers home for e-learning through Thursday, before the a high is expected to dip below 85 degrees on Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

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