IN THE NEWS: Should Hawaii schools cancel class due to ‘heat days’?
Should Hawaii schools cancel class due to ‘heat days’?
By Kristine Uyeno
Published: July 20, 2015, 5:39 pm
Updated: July 20, 2015, 6:47 pm
Link to KHON Channel 2 News HERE>>>
If a child’s classroom gets extremely hot, should they remain in class?
The new leader of the Hawaii State Teachers Association says they shouldn’t, and believes education officials should consider canceling school when the heat is unbearable.
The majority of public school teachers are entering the classrooms again this week at a time when parts of the state are reporting record-high temperatures.
Campbell High School teacher Jessica Caraang spent the day unpacking supplies for the upcoming school year.
“The first thing I thought of is, why are we having students start at the hottest time of the year?” she said.
Up to 40 students pack the classroom which, the 10th-grade teacher says, can feel like a sauna.
“It is hard to teach because they’re just not focused on anything,” Caraang said.
HSTA’s new president, Corey Rosenlee, says he wants to find out exactly how many classrooms need air conditioners and how much that would cost.
He says he believes it could be cheaper than what the DOE thinks “because when we look at the price of air conditioning, unless we know how big the problem is, we can’t solve it.”
According to the Department of Education, it would cost about $1.7 billion to install air conditioners at all DOE schools.
The DOE’s current power bill is $60 million, which would increase if more AC systems are installed.
Schools that recently received money for cooler classrooms include Lokelani Intermediate School this year, Hickam Elementary School last year, and Pohakea Elementary School in 2012.
The top three schools that remain on the list where AC has been identified as a priority are located in Ewa Beach.
But that doesn’t mean the schools will automatically receive them. The DOE just completed a study identifying the most efficient ways to cool classrooms.
The recommendations include lighter roof colors, natural shading and flushing out classroom heat at night.
The DOE will try some of these things at Campbell High School.
“One of the things we need to consider is, if it gets really hot, if we close down the schools,” Rosenlee said.
“We watch (KHON2) News and we get an idea of what’s coming up and just like the snow days on the continental U.S., that makes sense,” said Campbell High School Principal Jon Henry Lee.
Efforts to cool Campbell could begin by the end of the year.
Until then, “I was thinking about having them make their own paper fans and attach it to the desk. That way they can have something to fan themselves,” Caraang said.
DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said “suggestions on making changes to the school calendar based on ‘heat days’ should be considered during the process of creating the school calendar.”
FOLLOW UP . . .
DOE open to discussing school cancellations over heat
By Kristine Uyeno
Published: July 21, 2015, 6:08 pm Updated: July 21, 2015, 6:09 pm
On Monday, Hawaii State Teachers Association president Corey Rosenlee talked about the idea of canceling school on hot days if the state cannot cool classrooms.
“If you left your kid in a car, you’d be arrested but in Hawaii, what we sometimes do is we put kids in classrooms, 30 to 40 students as young as six years old and that’s just not responsible,” Rosenlee said.
If the state cannot afford to cool every classroom in the state, Rosenlee suggests having “heat days.”
After our story aired, the Department of Education told KHON2 it is open to discussing “what would constitute a ‘heat day.’”
KHON2 was also told the “department would need to confer with stakeholders on the various impacts such as the number of instruction days required by law, union contracts, and school calendar.”
We checked with other school districts on the mainland to find out how it works.
On Monday, public schools in Baltimore canceled summer programs because of the heat. Highs were in the low 90s, but with the humidity, the heat index was expected to be above 100 degrees.
In Illinois, the Board of Education allows these options if it gets too hot: change the first day of school, dismiss students after five hours, or use an emergency or interrupted day.
Even in Denver, where people might not think it can get extremely hot, officials did change the date of the first day of school and give schools that do not have air conditioning the option to send students home early.
Parents KHON2 talked to had mixed feelings about the idea of heat days at local public schools.
Many were concerned about rearranging schedules to accommodate them.
“If you’re going to have heat days, then there’s going to be a lot of parents that are going to be scrambling to get childcare for their children,” said Diane Rabago.
Ken McGuire says he supports the idea. “It would be inconvenient, but I would have to support it for the health of my kid,” he said.
“Obviously, the health of the children is more important than the education of the kids,” said parent Michael Healy.
Rosenlee said so far, he has heard positive feedback and will need to continue discussions with the DOE.
Corey Rosenlee is not only the president of HSTA, he is a parent of a public school student. CLICK HERE>>>
Hear just a couple suggestions that Corey offers as initial first steps to solving the heat problem in our classrooms CLICK HERE>>
School ‘Heat Days’? Hawaii Teachers Propose Canceling Classes If Rooms Don’t Have Air Conditioning
The head of the Hawaii State Teachers Association reportedly wants schools to either be cooled or shut down on extremely hot days. Getty Images
Teachers in Hawaii may soon ask state officials to either cool schools down or cancel classes when it gets too hot. They’re pushing for “heat days,” which are exactly what they sound like—the opposite of colder states’ snow days. Honolulu’s KHON-TV reported that Corey Rosenlee, the new president of the state teachers union, has plans to investigate how many of Hawaii’s classrooms don’t have air conditioning and take steps toward addressing the problem.
The state’s Education Department previously estimated it would cost about $1.7 billion to put air conditioning in all schools, and it’s slowly installing units based on priority. At least three institutions have received state funds aimed at lowering the temperature indoors since 2012. But Rosenlee told KHON-TV that “one of the things we need to consider is, if it gets really hot, if we close down the schools.”
Hawaii has relatively consistent temperatures, with summer highs hovering around 89 degrees and lows around 74, according to usclimatedata.com. The next school year will begin July 29 and run through May 26, 2016.
“The first thing I thought of is, why are we having students start at the hottest time of the year?” Campell High School teacher Jessica Caraang told KHON-TV. “It is hard to teach because they’re just not focused on anything.”