Elizabeth Homan, 2022Schools' Superintendent Elizabeth Homan

UPDATED Sept. 10: The Arlington Public Schools dismissed classes at more than half its schools before lunchtime Thursday and Friday of that week because of the recent high heat. The district had implemented measures Thursday night with fans and ventilation to draw cooler night air into targeted rooms and campuses, but this proved insufficient to permit all-day instruction Friday.

"Yes, same schools as Thursday had an early release today," Dr. Elizabeth Homan replied shortly before midnight Friday to a YourArlington query. "We released at the same times and for the same reasons: extreme heat -- above 90 degrees in [certain] classrooms because of no air conditioning."
She continued, "We do have plans moving forward to air-condition these spaces, but those plans require financial resources. Our implementation of the five-year strategic plan, which includes improvements of infrastructure to include modern upgrades to learning environments, depends on the outcome of the upcoming [Nov. 7 property-tax] override, so we look forward to what voters have to say in November."
Contacted via email on Saturday, Arlington School Committee member Jane Morgan noted that $260,000 already is in the upcoming capital plan to install air-conditioning at Thompson School, one of the six campuses affected.
Homan's comment Thursday afternoon was as follows: 
"Hardy, Bishop, Thompson, Ottoson, Stratton and Brackett will release early today; those schools do not have air-conditioning," Superintendent Elizabeth Homan told YourArlington in the late morning of Thursday, Sept. 7. She noted that afternoon that OMS had dismissed at noon, the other, elementary campuses at 11:30 a.m.

A report was given Thursday night during the scheduled regular meeting of the Arlington School Committee. Temperatures had reached between 90 and 98 degrees in the upper levels of some buildings, so it was "definitely the right decision" to dismiss early where necessary, Homan said. At campuses that have air conditioning and that therefore stayed open, those AC systems kept the temperature at 85 or lower.

Homan had sent an online message Wednesday afternoon to parents of children at all APS campuses to alert parent to the situation; available also on the APS website, it is reproduced in full below.

"We have advised teachers in warm spaces to provide for frequent water breaks and rest as needed, and [we] have made alternative cooler spaces available where possible. Our facilities and maintenance teams are doing everything they can to cool buildings without air conditioning overnight and to ensure all AC systems are operational. We are working with our town and facilities teams to explore all options for cooling the most affected areas."

"Possible Early Dismissals on Thursday and Friday for Buildings Lacking A/C: Even given these efforts, we have classrooms that reached over 90 degrees [Wednesday]. These conditions are unsafe and can cause heat-related illness. Given these conditions, we may need to send some students in significantly impacted schools home early over the next two days.

"We will make these determinations [school] by school; please watch for calls or announcements from your child’s school or the district -- and plan for the possibility of early release on Thursday and Friday. In the event a school needs to release early, students will be supervised in a cool space until they can be picked up. After-school programs will operate on an adjusted schedule. The Athletics Department is using MIAA guidelines to determine when practices or games need to be canceled or rescheduled.

"What families and students can do to prepare
  • Stay hydrated: Encourage your student to drink plenty of water before coming to school and pack a reusable water bottle for the day.
  • Dress appropriately: Students should dress in lightweight, breathable clothing. Consider a hat and sunglasses for added protection from the sun.
  • Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen to your student’s exposed skin before school; individual schools are making determinations about indoor/outdoor recess based on local conditions.
  • Cooling essentials: If possible and age-appropriate, pack a small handheld fan, a small towel or a cooling spray in your child's backpack for quick relief from the heat.
  • Lunch and snacks: Pack a lunch that doesn't require refrigeration and includes refreshing items like fruits and vegetables.

"We recognize the importance of establishing routines during the first week of school, and we understand that extreme heat can be challenging for our students and staff. Please know that we are actively working to address these concerns and appreciate your understanding and support during this time. The safety and well-being of our school community remain our top priority " 

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This announcement was published the morning of Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, and updated at about 1 p.m. that day with quotes from Superintendent Elizabeth Homan about early dismissal from selected campuses. It was updated Friday afternoon Sept. 8, 2023, to include information provided at the Sept. 7, 2023, regular meeting of the Arlington School Committee, which oversees the Arlington Public Schools. It was updated very early Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, to report that some campuses had dismissed some classes early on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, due to the high heat. It was updated Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, with a quote from Arlington School Committee member Jane Morgan about plans to install air conditioning at Thompson School.

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