Chicago students suffer sweltering heat, uncomfortable classroom - New York News

Chicago students suffer sweltering heat, uncomfortable classrooms

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Air conditioning was installed in all of the schools that welcomed students from campuses that CPS closed over the summer, but tens of thousands of students in other buildings spent this opening day sweltering.

A spokeswoman for the Board of Education told FOX 32 News they may not finish counting the classrooms that lack air conditioning until later this week. They've made big progress, but the teachers union claims about half are still sweatboxes like we found at Nash Elementary Monday.

Jahvier Mejorado, 9, lost count of how many water fountain breaks there were during his first official day in fourth grade. It was one strategy to beat the heat at the West Side's Henry Nash Elementary.

"I have two box fans I brought…from my house," teacher Connie Kelly says.

While Kelly's fans created a breeze, they could not prevent the sweltering temperature from wreaking havoc on the wall posters she had carefully hung before her students arrived for their first day.

"It just doesn't stick anymore," she says of the adhesive melting off the tape. "It just falls off."

Incredibly, the windows in Kelly's classroom have no screens. Each time she opens one in search of a cooling breeze, a nearby colony of bumble bees seems to send in a scout.

"[The bees] definitely disrupt the instructional time and we have to get the kids refocused again and get them back on task," Kelly continues.

State Representative La Shawn Ford, a former teacher himself, is the one who first told us about overheated conditions at Nash Elementary. He noted the high incidence of asthma in his West Side Austin neighborhood and said several students who have the condition suffered on Monday.

"I talked to some of the teachers today and students were falling out, nose bleeds, they had to go home early," Ford explains. "And so, I mean, we just want the city to know for a fact we need air conditioning units for the students."

The heat wave is supposed to last through much of the week, the National Weather Service said. Heat of this magnitude is unusual for this time of year, but not unprecedented.

Kelly and several of her colleagues also paid, out of their own pockets, for dozens of bottles of water so their students wouldn't lose learning time waiting in line at the hallway water fountain.

CPS said this is the plan teachers and staff are to follow at schools without air conditioning:

  • Drawing shades in rooms to keep out sunlight
  • Turning off overhead lights when feasible
  • Moving classes, where possible, into cooler parts of the building. In cases where a building is partially air conditioned, using those rooms (again, where possible) as opposed to non-air conditioned or warmer rooms
  • Providing water and regular water breaks

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