From the Office of the Superintendent:
Over the last several days, we have been experiencing very warm temperatures. These temperatures are causing uncomfortable classrooms for our students, teachers, and school staff. Hopefully we are nearing the end of these hot days and will be back to normal soon. However, I did want to take this opportunity to address how the decision is made to dismiss early, close schools, or operate as usual when it becomes hotter than anticipated. Just like delays and closures during winter operations, there is a lot of thought and consultation that goes into the decision to disrupt the school day.
As you know, I take the safety of our students very seriously. Each day since school started last week, I have checked the heat index for Garrett County. According to the National Weather Service, “The heat index is also known as the apparent temperature. The heat index is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.” According to several websites of school districts in the Pittsburgh and Baltimore areas, they decide to dismiss early or close when the heat index reaches 90° by 11:00 a.m. or 100° by 10:30 a.m. A heat index of 100° is considered dangerous and a heat index of 90° indicates extreme caution. According to the National Weather Service, the following were the maximum heat index numbers in Garrett County over the last several days:
- 9/4/18 @ 12:15 p.m. 83° Heat Index
- 9/5/18 @ 2:55 p.m. 84° Heat Index
- 9/6/18 @ 11:15 a.m. 79° Heat Index
These readings are well within the caution range as determined by the National Weather Service. This was the main factor in my decision not to close our schools.
Additionally, we have taken steps to help mitigate the heat in some of our buildings. On Tuesday morning of this week, I emailed all principals to ask that they continue to monitor the temperature inside and outside to ensure the safety of our students. At that time I encouraged them to limit outside recess time, allow extra breaks and provide water or water fountain breaks more frequently. Our maintenance crew has been hard at work as well. Each night they turn on the air handlers and open outside air dampers to 100%. This allows for cooling into the school. Then, when the outside air temperature reaches approximately 75°, they turn off the air handlers and run the exhaust fans. Teachers are also permitted to open interior classroom doors and windows and run portable fans in classrooms. Sometimes, however, keeping the windows closed actually keeps the room cooler due the air handlers being in use.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work very hard to provide an excellent education for your children while also keeping them safe and as comfortable as possible.
Ms. Barbara L. Baker
Superintendent of Schools
September 6, 2018
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