Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Overheated schools send students
home early




By Tom O'Neill toneill@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The heat wave that forced early dismissals at some schools Monday, and caused another to already decide to do so again today, is expected to break Wednesday.

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Mount Notre Dame sophomores try to cool off near floor fans.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        Monday hit 96 degrees, the 35th day since June 1 that temperatures in the region exceeded 90 degrees.

        Today is expected to hit 95 degrees, according to WCPO-TV meterologist Larry Handley, with the rest of the week peaking in the high-70s.

        ( At WCPO.com: Today's early dismissals)

        “It wasn't that bad, but it's just to the point where your legs get stuck to your chair,” senior Tiffany Clay of Mason said as she left Mount Notre Dame High School in Reading, which was dismissed an hour early Monday.

        Numerous schools, unprepared to deal with the high temperatures, sent students home early, including Bishop Fenwick and Seton high schools, and the districts of Georgetown Exempted and Monroe Local.

        Hamilton County health officials extended a smog alert to today.

        Monroe already instituted a one-hour early dismissal for today, said superintendent Arnol Elam, who made Monday's dismissal decision at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, when a thermometer in a junior high classroom read 98 degrees.

        “We made the decision early to let people know, and today we sent fliers home with the kids,” he said.

        “And we had the activity bus ready if they had to stay.”

        Varsity basketball coach Tim Kellis canceled “open gym” Sunday and Monday nights “because of extreme heat,” joining other coaches who've curtailed activities.

        Like many local districts, some Monroe buildings have air conditioning, and some don't.

        At 787-student Mount Notre Dame, principal Maureen Baldock said of third-floor classrooms, “It's unbearable. It's to the point where it's so overwhelming that, really, education isn't taking place.”

        At the high school level, it is less of a concern for administrators to send students home early. Ms. Clay got a ride home with classmate Liane Carpenter, also of Mason.

        Others made calls to arrange a ride, such as Mount Notre Dame freshman Amy Eckes. For those who wanted to stay, buses ran at the regular time as well.

        “I wasn't home but she called her mom, and I got the message in time,” said Amy's stepfather, Dave Hoffman of Madeira, who is retired and came to pick her up.

        But concerns about sending younger students “home alone” prompted Hamilton Schools officials to forgo early dismissal Monday.

        Instead, extra water breaks and other accommodations were made, according to district director of communications Joni Copas.

        Hamilton will take the same approach today.

        Our Lady of Sacred Heart School in Reading, which has students in first through eighth grade and no classroom air conditioning, canceled school today.

        Recent weather has been hot and dry.

        Clermont County officials said Monday that they were urging residents who obtain their water from the county's system to voluntarily conserve water.

        Customers are urged to refrain from washing cars, watering the lawn and other non-essential water usage.

        Farmers are being hit by the soaring temperatures, too, and are being forced to make crucial decisions on when to harvest - and at what cost.

        “This has been one of the most stressful seasons on alfalfa and other foragers that I can remember,” said Steve Bartels, extension agent for the Ohio State University Extension in Butler County.

        “Harvest was delayed well into the bloom stage, which reduced the amount of available nutrient in the hay,” Mr. Bartels said.

        “Much of the hay that was cut was rained on, further reducing the quality. It's better than snowballs, but ...”

        Local forecast and current conditions



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