About that longer school year

Starting school before Labor Day is all the rage, writes Curmudgeon. But it’s hot.

It’s at this time of year, when the temperature in the building is above 90° and the only fans are ones the teachers bring in from home, that you begin to understand why school leaders in the 1800s decided to take the summer off. It is also about this time — although late June is also hot around here — that I really wish the reformers would shut the hell up.

Teaching Now asks: Can someone fix the A/C? Epiphany in Baltimore is trying to teach in a sauna.

It hit 93 in my classroom today, and that, coupled with the humidity and a room chock full of kids, just doesn’t make for a good learning environment. I do my best, but it’s hard not think it’s pretty inhumane not to offer a/c in every school when it gets this hot. . . . Kids were ornery and/or sluggish.

A New Hampshire school district canceled classes because of temperatures in the 90s.

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Comments

  1. Devilbunny says:

    It’s worth noting that not only does school begin in August, but it ends in May. Early June is a lot cooler than late August. Why not just shift everything later by two weeks?

  2. Very few schools end in May. I taught at one last year that ended on May 31st, and that was the earliest one I’d seen in California.

    I’ve already been teaching for three weeks–school started 8/16, and it will end in early June. I have a friend who started last year on the 25th and went until mid-June.

    However, I have air conditioning, and my last school was in Pacifica.

  3. In our high school, one wing (the one with the most kids all day) has rooms with windows that are sealed for “fire code ruiles.” So when the A/C is not working, we get rooms with over 100 degrees and humidity levels that are inhumane. I’ve often asked how I would get my kids out of the room if something bad was happening in the hall and was told that windows are not a means of egress. In other words, go away and don’t bother me.
    I work hard and don’t ask for much at school, but decent temp. in the room seems basic.

  4. tim-10-ber says:

    Our schools start the third or fourth week of August and are done by the end of May. It has just now cooled down…there was much concern that school would be delayed due to excessive heat and humidity. A couple of the 140 schools had trouble for a day or two but school was not canceled. Two a day football practices? Well…that is a whole other story!

  5. I’m in central Texas, and our school sits in an open field with no trees. I’m lucky to be in a newer wing which does have a/c. The main building only has swamp coolers, the people in portables are even worse off. What I find odd is that though the school day ends at 4:06 for kids, and (officially) 4:15 for teachers (no matter how late we stay), the a/c goes off at 3:58. Doesn’t seem like a huge difference – until you’ve been in a room full of students (mostly sweaty boys from 7th period athletics) in central Texas in August for those extra 8 minutes! It’s amazing how quickly things heat up and get stuffy.

  6. So when the A/C is not working, we get rooms with over 100 degrees and humidity levels that are inhumane

    Room temperature is written into our teacher’s contract. It’s not in yours?

  7. Cal, nearly every school district in Georgia ends in May. Our local district actually finishes May 20th after starting on August 9th.

    We have caught a lot of flak this year because August has been exceptionally hot even by Georgia standards. However, typically August high temperatures here are only a little over 1 degree higher than normal June highs.

    Ultimately if parents want to assert enough control to the school boards (or their membership) in order to start later, they will. I for one though think academically it makes more sense to finish the first semester in fall as we do starting in August.

  8. I’m done before Memorial Day. More instructional days before testing, don’t you know. I do get an advantage over other states when it comes to AP exams, which hit within a few days of final exams, so I get the entire school year in while other schools still have a quarter to go.

  9. One of the advantages of an August start is that it equalizes the time before and after the winter holiday break. Here my daughter finishes exams before the break, then starts the new semester in the new calendar year. Those elsewhere who start school after Labor Day go back to exams. This makes no difference in elementary school, but in high school it does.

  10. bill eccleston says:

    I have been teaching in a sauna this week, too; the conditions absolutely defy what learning psychology has to teach us about maximum conditions for learning. But do administrators care? You have to understand that in America, administrative thought is driven by Curly’s Law. Named in honor of Dr. of Education, Jerome Howard, brother of Moe and Shemp and associate of Larry, Curly’s Law states that in education, the stupider idea always trumps the smarter. Starting school before Labor Day is just one outstanding example. Another one teachers all over the U.S. are suffering now is the anxiety, chaos and maximum learning inefficiency caused by schools scheduling “professional development” and other bureaucratically driven activities in the days immediately before opening, sucking up almost all the time teachers need to prepare for what is obviously priority Number One: their incoming students. If I should hit Powerball, I’ll up the ante by tens and twenties of millions until I find one college of education in this country that’ll scream “Uncle” and endow the Dr. Jerome Howard Chair in Instructional Chaos and Mayhem. It will be held for two-semester stints by big name comedians who will spend the time touring the country doing school-themed stand-up in front of PTA’s, state legislatures, and middle school assemblies. I expect the documentary will win the Academy Award.

  11. It would be interesting to check up on prisons and see what temperatures/humidity levels are considered “unfair” to prisoners. If these schools are getting warmer than prisons are allowed to be, something is VERY wrong.

    My classrooms have been cool enough but there have been days when the temperature in my office has approached 90, with almost no ventilation. (And we also cannot open windows).

  12. Wow, so other states are much earlier. Interesting.

    But I still ask: don’t you all have contracts that specify airconditioning?

  13. Just some thoughts on the subject:

    My daughter attended elementray school in Japan where they are on a year round schedule, although they do take most of August off, the hottest month of the year. Air conditiontioning was, and still is, non-existent but you could open windows and most classrooms had fans. I never heard anyone complain, perhaps because few Japanese homes have air conditioning. Are the Japanese being “inhumane”?

    We now live in Colorado where the school year runs from mid-August to the end of May. I asked why it was not the more traditional school year of early September to June and was told that the school year had to align with university schedules to allow teachers to take courses during the summer.

  14. But I still ask: don’t you all have contracts that specify airconditioning?

    Surely you jest. A right to air conditioning?

    I’ve taught in three districts- 1 rural, 1 urban and one mega-urban — and in all three, a/c was a rare feature in classrooms, though not in school offices. Apparently the administrators have a right to air conditioning. Teachers and students do not. With the budgetary issues as they are, I do not expect this situation to change. Installing a/c in older buildings is exorbitantly expensive, and operating it adds big bucks to utilities bills. Doing without can be construed as a “green” initiative and will likely be encouraged.

    OTOH, trying to work in classrooms where the temperature is between 85 and 95 degrees, as it has been in some buildings I’ve worked in (and for weeks on end), is also quite counterproductive. We’ve even had our standardized testing in such situations. When they publish the school results, they should indicate whether the school was air-conditioned or not — it cannot be an insignificant influence on student results. We’ve even had kids passing out and had ambulances remove staff or students who suffered from heat prostration. I keep a thermometer in class to monitor ambient temperature and have had it climb over 100 on several occasions (and dip into the 40’s in winter).

    A few newer schools, and many high schools, in my district are air-conditioned. Very few elementary schools are.

  15. A right to air conditioning?

    I do not jest. It’s written into our contract. If it gets too hot or too cold, we are teaching out of contract. And this is in the Bay Area of California, which ain’t all that hot to begin with.

    Really, what are you paying for with all those union dues? Demand better representation!

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