Heat, not COVID, drives some Tri-State schools back to virtual learning this week

Posted at 9:06 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 09:06:29-04

Some Greater Cincinnati school districts had to send students home this week due to the heat advisory in place.

“They’re hot; they're not paying attention to the teacher. They're agitated, aggravated. So, it affects them,” said Nicole Burton.

Her children attend Finneytown Local School District. The district is sending students in all schools home before lunch this week.

“It's kind of crazy,” said another parent, Kelsey Vonbargen. “We never had heat days growing up, but I'm glad they do it because it shows they care about the kids.”

Not all school buildings in Greater Cincinnati have air conditioning. Staff usually open windows, turn on fans and ensure children have plenty of water. However, this heat wave is so intense, Finneytown schools pivoted starting Friday, August 20. That was the second day of school.

“This year it's more challenging because, for us, we do have the universal mask mandate,” said Superintendent Dr. Laurie Banks, Ph.D. “We know it's harder to cool your body down, the temperature of your body downl when you’re breathing through a mask.”

Dr. Banks says administrators also consider outside temperature, heat index and humidity.

“When the temperature is at 90 or above, that is definitely a key indicator for us that we really have to consider. If the temperature is between 85 and 90, we tend to look more at, then, is there other contributing factors like the humidity. Is it overcast? Is it going to be sunny, and how will that impact the building temperature?” said Dr. Banks.

She says relief is on the way. A new elementary school with air conditioning is slated to open next fall. A secondary school is in the works.

Plus, the federal government is offering COVID-19 relief funds so schools can update air circulation systems.

“We do have the covid relief dollars. So, for us, it’s the balance of new buildings and then what we already had planned and then putting additional dollars into our existing structures that we know will be torn down in the future,” said Dr. Banks.

Oak Hills Local School district also had to pivot due to the heat wave. Students in Oak Hills High School, Delhi Middle School, Bridgetown Middle School, J.F. Dulles Elementary and Springmyer Elementary will work from home from Tuesday through Friday (Aug. 24-27) and return to in-person learning on Monday, Aug. 30.

Students have received Chromebooks to take home with them as well as their remote-learning schedule and instructions.

OHLSD Spokesperson Krista Ramsey said taxpayers would have to vote to build new schools there. Ramsey says the district will use COVID-19 relief funds on other disricts needs.