ELKINS, W.Va. — The Randolph County Board of Education has implemented a precise procedure to deal with high temperatures in schools without air conditioning.
Five Randolph County schools without air conditioning – Harman School, Coalton Elementary School, Homestead Elementary School, Beverly Elementary School and Valley Head Elementary School – dismissed students early Monday because of high classroom temperatures.
Starting the school year earlier in August, combined with high summer temperatures, has caused problems at the five schools so far this term. In response to the issue, on Aug. 19, the Randolph County BOE laid out a specific protocol that county principals are instructed to follow.
The Inter-Mountain submitted a Freedom of Information request to learn the details of the new protocol.
As instructed by Superintendent Pam Hewitt and Assistant Superintendent Rich Carr, when outside temperatures are 80 degrees or higher, staff at each school are to monitor and record temperatures at their time of arrival, during the mid-morning, and again at noon.
If temperatures in a school reach 85 degrees, the school’s officials are required to contact Hewitt or Carr. Once notified, the county officials will consider the building or classroom temperatures, in addition to the humidity, before determining the appropriate next step, whether it be dismissing students early or an alternative.
Temperatures are to be monitored with thermometers that are placed throughout each of the schools. A total of 58 thermometers were purchased by the Randolph County BOE on Aug. 25. The thermometers were distributed to each of the county schools without air conditioning, officials said.
Teachers and staff are asked to use ceiling fans and any air conditioning units that are in the schools to keep rooms cool. In addition, staff may open windows in the early part of the morning to bring cool air into the building.
However, to ensure student safety, doors that open to the outside of the building are not to be left open when students are in the building.
As reported by Principal Paul Zickefoose, during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, Beverly Elementary School received portable air conditioning units for classrooms. He said a total of eight units were donated by the Beverly Elementary School PTO. During the 2015-2016 school year, Beverly Elementary School was able to replace one of these portable air conditioners that was no longer working, and was unrepairable, with levy funds.
In addition, a number of schools are able to utilize large farm fans to help keep their buildings cool. Zickefoose and Coalton Elementary School Principal Amy Smith both reported that their schools utilize large fans throughout the day.
Smith said, “We are doing everything within our means to deal with the fact that, due to having the mandated 180 days, we now have to start school at the beginning of August.”
Staff at the five schools are asked to keep window blinds closed in an effort to block direct sunlight and keep heat out of the building. In previous years, window blinds have been purchased by the Randolph County Board of Education for these same purposes.
In 2013, window blinds were purchased for Valley Head Elementary School; in 2015, window blinds were purchased for Coalton Elementary School; in 2013 and 2015, window blinds were purchased for Harman School; in 2011, 2014 and 2015, window blinds were purchased for Homestead Elementary School; and in 2015, window blinds were purchased for Beverly Elementary School in March, July, and August. These purchases are recorded with receipts, which were provided to The Inter-Mountain by the Randolph County Board of Education.
Homestead Elementary School Principal Suzanne Cain said a total of 77 light blocking/insulated blinds were purchased for the downstairs classrooms in the school. These blinds were purchased during the five years of the most recent levy in order to block the sun during warm months and provide insulation during winter months, Cain said.
Additional procedures that were suggested for staff to follow include allowing students to have water at their desks during the day. In addition, cold water is made readily available to all students throughout the entire day in all areas of each of the schools. Frozen fruit bars have also been provided to students. Each of the five schools without air conditioning have been provided with these snacks.
“Any modification we can do like that helps,” Smith said. “We’re also providing them with a cool snack in the afternoon, just anything we can do to help deal with the heat.”
In addition, PE teachers at each of the schools are asked to closely monitor student activity during class, and teachers are to follow this same protocol during recess.
The Randolph County BOE also asks that parents dress students in layers so that they can be as comfortable as possible as temperatures may rise throughout the warm summer days.