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Helmut Schmidt, Published August 28 2013

6 Fargo schools close remainder of week due to heat

FARGO – The Fargo School District announced Wednesday that classes at Clara Barton, Horace Mann, Lewis and Clark, McKinley and Roosevelt elementary schools are canceled today and Friday due to hot, humid weather.

The private Grace Lutheran School in Fargo also announced it canceled classes today and Friday.

Classes at the five public schools had been canceled Monday through Wednesday because of high temperatures and humidity and those buildings’ lack of air conditioning.

To make up the days lost, the school day for the affected public elementary schools will be extended 30 minutes each day from Sept. 30 through Dec. 20.

All other Fargo public schools will be open as normal.

The hot, sticky weather without relief from cooler overnight temps is not allowing the schools without air conditioning to cool at night, public schools Superintendent Jeff Schatz said.

Schatz said district staff members have taken temperature readings in the buildings every morning, recording temps of 80 to 85 degrees at 6 a.m.

“Even with fans, it’s not a good environment,” he said.

Other area school districts have also taken measures to combat the heat.

E The Grand Forks School District announced it will dismiss classes two hours early today and Friday, with middle and high school activities continued with extra precautions.

E Valley City public school officials said elementary schools will close at 1:10 p.m. and the high school at 1:30 p.m. for the next couple days.

E Wahpeton’s Central Elementary School will dismiss at noon today and Friday due to the heat, the district’s website stated.

E Jamestown public school officials decided earlier this week to close all schools at 1 p.m. daily through Friday, Superintendent Rob Lech said.

E Bismarck Superintendent Tamara Uselman said her district is staying open with some precautions.

Parents can keep children home who are medically fragile or affected badly by hot temperatures.

No ovens are used for lunch. Fans and chillers are used where possible, Uselman said.

Bismarck’s teachers and principals also can move classes to air-conditioned sites, she said.

Staying safe

Schatz said the Fargo district wants its students and teachers to be safe, and he said the quality of education is poor when everyone’s minds are on trying to stay cool.

He said weather forecasts call for cooler temperatures in the region starting Sunday evening and into Monday. Classes will resume after Labor Day on Tuesday, he said.

The same will happen for Grace Lutheran, Principal Jean Syverson said.

Schatz said the district looked at several ways to make up this week’s days lost to the heat. Staff considered using vacation days or tacking days on to the end of the year. Half-day school was also considered, but he said the heat would still affect learning.

Schatz said installing window-mounted air-conditioning units in older schools might not be practical. He said the units can draw a lot of electricity, and the buildings’ electrical systems might not be able to handle the load.

He said it will be up to the affected building’s principals to work with their staffs to be sure time tacked on to each school day is used effectively.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583