Crippling heat is forcing northern U.S. schools to close. Again.
For the second year in a row, a late-spring heat wave is forcing schools in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes region to close, send kids home early or shift to remote learning. Climate change is making hot days before the end of the school year more common across northern states where many schools lack air conditioning, especially in urban areas that tend to heat up the most. As temperatures soared to near or above 90 degrees Thursday and Friday, in some cases tying or setting record highs for the day, more than 100 public schools in Detroit closed three hours early . Public schools in Grand Rapids, Mich., closed for the entire day both Thursday and Friday because of the heat. Elsewhere in Michigan, public schools in Pontiac, Southfield and Hudsonville were closed Friday as well. When it gets warm in classrooms in Detroit, students start experiencing issues with asthma and nosebleeds, and the environment becomes difficult to learn in, said Lakia Wilson-Lumpkins, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the school districts teachers union. More than 50 percent of the districts buildings lack air conditioning, and some buildings have classrooms without windows, which makes it tough to circulate air. Teachers do what they do to comfort the children in terms of fans and turning the lights out, but it doesnt make for a situation where youre able to attend to a task, Wilson-Lumpkins said. The school district which has about 53,000 students has dismissed early before because of extreme heat, Wilson-Lumpkins said, and its happening more often now because of climate change. Some of those aging buildings are set to be renovated soon. So, hopefully well see some resolution to this situation, Wilson-Lumpkins said. In Grand Rapids, the decision to close early because of extreme heat was unusual, said Matthew Marlow, president of the school districts teachers union, but the classrooms were getting hot. When school officials canceled classes, Marlow said, he thought it was the right choice. As in Detroit, some of the districts older buildings dont have air conditioning. The Grand Rapids school district is in the process of remodeling those older sites. Marlow said Grand Rapids school officials decision had little impact on the school calendar, since the district sets aside nine days for inclement weather and hadnt used them up. But in the future, who knows, depending on whats going on with these temps, Marlow said. In addition to the schools in Michigan, 40 public schools in Pittsburgh shifted to remote learning Thursday and Friday, the Associated Press reported . More than a dozen Baltimore City Public Schools and 90 public schools in Philadelphia closed early Friday. Near the beginning of the school year, schools in Philadelphia were closed early on two days in late August because of heat, while heat closed schools in Denver for multiple days in early September. !!Good Evening DPSCD Families!! Please be advised that due to expected high temperatures tomorrow 6/1 and Friday 6/2, all schools will be dismissed three hours earlier based on schools dismissal time. pic.twitter.com/zT3T5ET2Do Record daily high temperatures Thursday included 92 degrees in Muskegon, Mich.; 91 degrees in Marquette, Mich.; 91 degrees in Pellston, Mich.; 90 degrees in Gaylord, Mich.; 96 degrees in Burlington, Vt.; 91 degrees in Plattsburgh, N.Y.; 91 degrees in Syracuse, N.Y.; and 93 degrees in both Caribou and Augusta, Maine. Fargo, N.D., tied its record high for the day at 97 degrees. The unusually hot temperatures are a result of a large area of high pressure providing plenty of sunshine and dry air. Soils that are somewhat dry, because of precipitation deficits of around two to four inches below normal during the last two months, are probably enhancing the heat as well. More record highs were expected Friday across portions of the Great Lakes, Midwest and Northeast before temperatures were forecast to cool off to the 80s and 70s next week. Scientists say climate change and urban growth are making summers longer and hotter . The number of days during the school year when the temperature reaches 90 degrees or higher is increasing for many cities across the northern half of the country, a Washington Post analysis found last year. That has led to about double the number of canceled days for heat , according to research by University of Colorado civil engineering professor Paul Chinowsky, climbing from an average of three or four days pear year a decade ago to six or seven days now. A study of schools and rising temperatures led by Chinowsky found that more than 13,700 public schools (K-12) in the contiguous U.S. that did not need cooling systems in 1970 have installed or will need to install HVAC systems by 2025 and that more than 13,000 additional schools will need to upgrade their existing HVAC systems due to a need for increased cooling capacity. We know it is unacceptable to have schools closing early due to lack of AC. Thats why weve invested a record $8.7 billion in K-12 for Maryland public schools to improve infrastructure and ensure every child can receive a world-class public education in a 21st century school. The most vulnerable schools tend to be those in urban areas, where buildings tend to be older and temperatures are often hotter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that urban centers can be as much as 20 degrees warmer than nearby neighborhoods because there are fewer trees, less grass and more heat-absorbing pavement.