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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Summer's still holding on

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Spencer schools have let out early due to the heat every day this week. While he hasn't received any complaints from the students, or their parents, Superintendent Terry Hemann is looking forward to the district running on a more regular schedule.
(Photo by Kate Padilla) [Order this photo]
Heat index prompts "early outs"

Students at Spencer schools have yet to sit in class for a full day.

The high temperatures and humidity levels have become a concern for the administration because the majority of the district buildings are not air conditioned.

"The middle school is completely air conditioned, but only certain areas of the high school and elementary schools have air," Spencer Superintendent Terry Hemann said. "Especially on the second the level of the high school, the heat can just get unbearable up there."

While he hasn't heard any complaints from the students or parents, Hemann is looking forward to getting into a routine.

"If they're given time to prepare, the teachers are able to get quality learning into that half day, but we'd rather run on a regular schedule," he said.

Spencer schools have been dealing with the heat for years, particularly during the first few weeks of the school year. While installing air-conditioning into all of the buildings is on the list of potential school improvements, other things must fall into line first.

There is a task force with the state studying school start dates. Iowa code states "the first day of school shall begin no sooner than a day during the calendar week in which the first day in September falls but no later than the first Monday in September."

However, the state did issue an early start date waiver, in which a district can request to start before Sept. 1. All but five schools in the state applied for this waiver.

Perhaps the largest hesitation on air-conditioning the schools is the cost: air-conditioning all of the buildings could cost the school $1.5 to $2 million dollars.

If this taskforce concludes that starting later is more beneficial, then Hemann suggested the need for the air-conditioning would be eliminated.

"One of the reasons we start when we do is so that we can finish the first semester before Christmas break," he said. "It's what drives a lot of the schools."

In addition, many high school athletics and activities start in August. Regardless of when the school year starts, these activities would still follow the same schedule.

In deciding when to let out early, Hemann considers both the temperature and the dew point, as well as the age range of the students impacted.

"We've got students from four- to 18-years old," Hemann said. "Maybe the high schoolers can handle the heat, but preschoolers are a little more sensitive."

The upcoming forecast looks more bearable, which gives Hemann hope for the rest of the school year.

"We understand the inconvenience," he said. "Hopefully the next time we have to let out early it's because of colder weather."

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