Heat, Humidity, Masks Spur School Closures Across Connecticut

High temperatures and humidity led multiple Connecticut school districts, including Madison and Guilford, to call an early dismissal today.

Superintendent Craig Cooke of Madison Public Schools said the decision to dismiss early in Madison probably would not have happened if the students did not have to wear masks. 

“I think it’s more difficult certainly with the heat for students and staff in schools,” said Cooke.

Currently, Madison has air conditioning at Daniel Hand High School, Brown Intermediate School and part of Polson Middle School. Neither of the two elementary school buildings are air conditioned.

Cooke said they decided to dismiss all the students in the district in consideration of family needs. 

“We know a lot of families rely on older students to watch younger students after school and we felt it was better,” he said. 

According to Cooke, the district’s proposed $85 million building project for the school district, which includes building a new elementary school and closing down Jeffrey and Ryerson Elementary Schools, would address the current lack of air conditioning. The project would also expand the air conditioning in Polson Middle School. 

Guilford Public Schools also decided to close, according to the school website, after having “HVAC failures in multiple schools.” Superintendent Paul Freeman did not respond to requests for comment. 

More than 50 districts in the state, including Madison and Guilford, as well as some private schools and technical schools, dismissed early today because of the heat. 

Don Williams, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said that air conditioning should be required in schools, along with temperature limits for inside school buildings. A bill being considered in the state legislature would require schools to keep their gymnasiums at a temperature of between 65 and 85 degrees. 

Williams encouraged districts to put federal funds toward updating their HVAC systems and installing air conditioning if they haven’t already. 

“We’re seeing right now what happens when the temperature in school buildings gets into the 90s and sometimes passes 100,” he said. “It’s not an atmosphere conducive to anything, including learning.” 

Williams said this could present an even greater challenge this summer, since many districts are planning to host summer enrichment and learning programs to catch students up from the pandemic.  

Tomorrow, the temperature is predicted to be in the low-to mid 80s in Madison and Guilford, with a humidity of around 78 percent, according to the Weather Channel. Cooke said they would continue monitoring the situation. He said the district would consider all options, including remote learning. 

Cooke said the district was still waiting on state guidelines to determine whether or not they would require students to wear masks next year.

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