'Heat days' become more common for sweaty schools thanks to early starts, money woes
Parents are beginning to push back. Sioux City, Iowa, schools decided to move the start of school a week later next year after getting an earful, school board president Mike Krysl said. And a parent group in North Dakota is looking to launch a ballot measure requiring schools to start after Labor Day, said Jeff Schatz, the Fargo school superintendent.
Those measures haven't always been successful elsewhere.
In Iowa, lawmakers enacted legislation that requires school districts wait until September to open. But the law allows districts to obtain a waiver to start early, and all but 10 of the state's 346 school districts did just that. Indiana lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully for years to push the start of the school year back to after Labor Day, but have run into resistance from schools who have scheduling concerns and local officials who think the state shouldn't control the school calendar.
Even in places that have decided to install air conditioning, the process is anything but quick. In St. Joseph, Mo., roughly two thirds of the district schools lack air conditioning, though many will get it in the next two years after the community approved a plan that includes $5 million for air conditioning.
"There was some pushback from people who were saying 'When we were kids we went to school without air conditioning, why can't these kids?'" said Barbara Moore, the school board president at the time.
Chicago parents believe that the issue is more about inequality. Some schools in the city are air conditioned, some partially, and others not at all. When some schools were closed last year in a restructuring plan, the district promised that students in shuttered schools would be moved to the ones with air conditioning. That steamed parents with students left in the hot schools.
"I don't think that's fair to these kids at all," said Rita Jackson, as she waited outside Nash Elementary last week for her 5-year-old grandson.
Mercer reported from Monticello, Ill. Associated Press journalists Lindsey Tanner in Chicago, Jeni O'Malley in Indianapolis, Chris Blank in Jefferson City, Mo., and Barbara Rodriguez in Des Moines also contributed to this report.
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