Chicago’s Hot Challenge: How Schools Are Tackling Extreme Temperatures to Ensure Effective Learning in 2023

Chicago's Hot Challenge

Some schools are adapting to the conditions as the Chicago area braces for dangerously high temperatures, with one district delaying the start of the new school year.

The Downers Grove Grade School District 58 stated on Monday that it would postpone the start of classes from Wednesday to Friday “due to the forecast of extreme heat conditions in our area.”

“Our top priority is creating a welcoming and secure learning environment for everyone. In a letter to parents, District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell stated, “This has been a difficult choice and one we hoped we didn’t have to make. “Unfortunately, the majority of our school buildings and classrooms lack modern HVAC systems and air conditioning, which may be very problematic for people in extreme temperatures. By delaying the start of classes by two days, we hope to create a setting that is more conducive to productive teaching and learning.

The district expressed regret for the difficulty caused to parents and families and stated that it is now working toward “long-term solutions to improve these conditions”.

The first day of classes for children in the Chicago Public Schools system has already begun, and the district claims that it is ready for the challenging weather.

Forecast models indicate that later this week, some sites might have heat indices that are over 110 degrees, with air temperatures in the mid- to upper-90s.

Faced with that kind of pressure, the district asserts that as of Monday, when classes start, all CPS classrooms have working air conditioning, and that staff members would “provide temporary cooling where possible” if there are problems with cooling systems within schools.

According to a statement, the district restricts the amount of time spent outside during hot weather.

Our top focus this week when children and staff return to school is to keep everyone safe, healthy, cool, and comfortable, according to CPS officials. Chicago Public Schools is collaborating with school administrators to make sure every school building is prepared to welcome new and returning students this week as we begin a new school year.

In Downers Grove, Russell stated that the district also planned to introduce “heat relief protocols,” such as rotating classrooms through designated “cooling areas,” providing regular water breaks, putting on fans, and more, on days when the temperatures are “warm, but not oppressive.”

The Chicago Teachers Union declared that it will keep a close eye on school conditions and seek to protect both staff and student safety.

“This week, we could experience triple-digit temperatures… Our students, members, and young people will have to deal with the heat, according to president Stacy Davis Gates.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez stated that maintenance workers have increased efforts to guarantee that all classrooms are climate-controlled for the start of the school year.

“Our crew has been working nonstop this weekend and all of last week. There are problems with all systems. We’re resolving those,” he said.

He stated that the district is trying to address any problems in the corridors, libraries, and other spaces, and that all classrooms will either have central air conditioning or window-mounted air conditioning units.

Both Davis Gates and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson have stated that the district must address the continuing consequences of climate change in addition to a single heat wave in order to address the issue.

How does our district respond to the current climate calamity by remodeling existing buildings or creating brand-new ones? said Davis Gates.

For long-term solutions to heat waves, which can affect a variety of aspects of school life, Johnson says he plans to engage with CPS and the CTU.

“Climate justice is an important part of my administration as we see extreme weather impacting the entire country,” he stated.

By Friday, the heat is probably over, and during the weekend, milder values are anticipated.

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