Earlier on this blog, we discussed how school districts, at elementary schools and even colleges, have the complete freedom to make the decision to continue with classes or cancel classes if a power outage occurs and knocks out the air conditioning and other climate control measures. It seems there is not a lot of discussion on this important topic, the risk of High Temperatures in Schools.
If we look at this situation at its most basic level, we must examine the effects of extended exposure to high temperatures in enclosed locations on children. We can leave college students out of this discussion for the most part, because they are adults, more often than not. Adults are not considered “in the care of the school” while they attend classes on campus; children attending school, on the other hand, are minors, and legally cannot make their own decision to skip class because of High Temperatures in Schools.
They must rely on their parents or the school administration, which is authorized to act in loco parentis (“in the place of a parent”) while the students are on school grounds attending classes.
What effects might extreme high temperatures in schools cause in students?
According to one Dr. Jerri Rose, a pediatric emergency care physician at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, says, “Certainly temperatures in the 90s for a prolonged period of time, like an entire school day, can put kids at stress and risk for heat related illness.”
She also urges parents and school officials to be aware that children can experience different symptoms of heat related illness than adults will often present with. She states that children can have the following symptoms, but this is by no means a comprehensive listing:
- Difficulty thinking and reasoning
What measures are appropriate to combat the risks of heat related illness in children?
Many people think that if the power goes out during a period of high temperatures, staying indoors and minimizing activity levels will keep your temperature down.
That may not be entirely true.
While remaining sedentary can help, it is by no means a solution on its own. Heat related illness and injury occurs when one’s core body temperature rises above safe operating levels. Let me ask you a few questions.
How do we check the “doneness” of meat when cooking?
We check the internal temperature.
What is an oven?
A box made of any number of hard, heat-resistant materials and insulating materials that is heated to cook food and other items.
Does an oven always keep all the heat it creates inside?
No, some heat leaks out, no matter how well insulated or sealed the system is.
So, what are buildings made of?
Hard materials and insulating materials, designed to keep as much of the outside environment outside as possible.
If a building has windows, what do the windows do?
Let in light.
What’s a greenhouse made of?
Glass, or other mostly-transparent materials, designed to let in light. They also trap heat, creating a warm environment for plants to grow out-of-season.
So, when the air conditioning goes out….
You are now in an oven, sitting in the sun, with greenhouse windows letting in light and preventing heat from escaping. With no power to circulate and cool the ambient air in the rooms, the school will literally turn into an oven.
Cool water will not help.
There is no power to run fans.
(Even if there were, fans do not function to cool the air. They only circulate the air, and once temperatures rise above 85 degrees, the fan motor overheats, and turns into a heat pump, compounding the problem.)
The only solution to avoid the risk of High Temperatures in Schools with no AC is to allow students to go home, because not only will they not be able to learn anything when their bodies are struggling to survive the extreme temperatures; there could be drastic physical consequences of being forced to sit in a brick oven while the sun rides higher overhead.