Heat wave sends 15 Minneapolis schools to distance education
Not much learning happened Monday at Olson Middle School in North Minneapolis.
Temperatures in some classrooms reached 97 degrees by 9 a.m. Teachers moved classes from the third floor to the first floor cafeteria, where it was cooler, but only a few degrees. Because only about half of the school’s 400 students learn in person, they had more room to spread out. The students lined up along the lockers in the hallway near the main office to enjoy the breeze from a large fan.
“There isn’t a lot of teaching going on because teachers put the safety of the students first, their own safety,” said Laura Henry, a teacher on special mission. an experienced teacher who provides support to other educators at Olson School. “We tried to survive.
Due to COVID restrictions, students and teachers could not drink directly from water fountains. They could fill the water bottles. But most of the students didn’t have bottles to fill. Teachers spent their own money on mugs, bottled water and soft drinks, Henry said. And the masks made everyone more uncomfortable.
On Monday afternoon, the school district announced it would send 15 schools, including Olson, to distance education Tuesday through Thursday. Weather forecasts show temperatures reaching 90 degrees each of the next three days after a hot weekend. Approximately 6,500 students attend the 15 schools in person or remotely.
At Lake Harriet Senior School, classroom temperatures reached 93 degrees at 7:35 a.m. Monday, according to a thermometer photo provided by the Minneapolis Teachers’ Federation. Greta Callahan, president of the union’s teachers’ section, said some classrooms have reached over 100 degrees.
Learn firsthand about climate change
This week marks the second time in modern memory that Minneapolis public schools have closed school buildings due to the heat. During the first week of school in August 2013, warm temperatures drove the district to cancel classes in 27 schools.
Some schools affected by the thermal shutdown are primarily serving students of color, including Olson Middle School. But overall, schools switching to distance education this week have a whiter student population than the district average. Since 2017, the district has installed air conditioning in six schools in Minneapolis, five of which primarily serve students of color.
Olson Middle School, as well as Bryn Mawr Elementary School and Windom Dual Spanish Immersion School, usually have air conditioning. But now, during the hottest days of the school year, these three schools are in the middle of a chiller replacement project, which means they can’t cool their buildings on the hottest days of the year. school year.
Air conditioning may not always have been a necessity in Minnesota schools. But temperatures are rising, both in Minneapolis and around the world. Since 1970, Minneapolis’ weather summers – which begin June 1 – have warmed by an average of 2.5 degrees, according to a Climate Central analysis of data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Spring and fall have also warmed up. (Winter temperatures have risen the most, but Minnesotans still don’t need air conditioning in the winter.)
This latest heat wave came earlier than usual. Minnesota Public Radio Meteorologist Paul Huttner Noted that Minnesota’s current streak of days above 90 degrees before June 15 could equal a record, set in 2018, just three years ago.
Now that students and teachers can easily switch to distance education, closing school buildings due to the heat disrupts their learning less, Henry said. And most families and staff supported the change, she said. Yet students who hoped to spend the last week of school with their friends, after spending much of the year in distance education, may be disappointed.
School buildings are currently scheduled to reopen Friday, the last day of school for Minneapolis students. Olson Middle School plans to hold a promotion ceremony for eighth-graders leaving for high school. Teachers will be able to attend to the needs of the last day of school in person; students will clean their lockers.
By then, the heatwave should break out, but hardly. Current forecasts show a Friday high of 88 degrees.