It’s elementary: Friday’s heat shuts 19 District 204 schools
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org September 1, 2011 2:54PM
Updated: November 5, 2011 1:01PM
Peterson’s in, but Patterson’s out.
Kids in 19 Indian Prairie District 204 elementary schools are having an extra long holiday weekend. That should come as a relief to them, and their teachers, who spend the school day in buildings that have no air conditioning.
The school district announced early Thursday afternoon, as the heat index hovered around the 100-degree mark, that classes were being cancelled Friday at the schools. The message, circulated electronically through the district’s 204-enews electronic communications network, cited forecasts calling for temperatures to be in the mid-90s on Friday.
The district website has a page explaining the excessive heat factor that sometimes afflicts the schools, tracing the issue to the school board’s decision 32 years ago to forego central air conditioning when it was building Clow Elementary School.
The feature was left out of subsequent construction plans, which followed on a template approach as enrollment rapidly grew across the school system.
The district relates that formal support for a policy change was lacking until 2001, when a citizen-based referendum committee recommended including cooling systems in the last two schools, Owen and Peterson. Those campuses are the only elementary schools in the district slated to hold classes Friday. The middle and high schools are not affected by the heat call.
In recent years, the district has investigated the possibility of equipping the 19 schools with central air conditioning, an upgrade pegged at $36.1 million that would take several years to complete. Consultants also advised that window air conditioners would be noisy, costly, inefficient and would provide air of poor quality.
A parent survey conducted in late 2009 found divided support for a property tax increase to pay for installing central air at all 19 sites, adding $107 to the average yearly real estate tax bill. Some 45.2 percent of those asked said they would be willing to pay the additional sum, but 53 percent said they would not.
The elementary schools affected by the shutdown are Brookdale, Brooks, Builta, Clow, Cowlishaw, Fry, Georgetown, Gombert, Graham, Kendall, Longwood, McCarty, Patterson, Spring Brook, Steck, Watts, Welch, White Eagle and Young.
Susan Rice, spokeswoman for Naperville School District 203, said school would be going on as usual Friday.
“We have air conditioning in all 22 of our schools, and as of 2 p.m. today, they are all working,” Rice wrote in an email Thursday afternoon.
District 204’s plan for dealing with hot days is at ipsdweb.ipsd.org/Subpage.aspx/HighTemperaturePlan.