School's off to a hot start

Forecast says midsummer, but school calendars say summer's over

Area districts say they're prepared to keep kids cool

jwarren@herald-leader.comAugust 2, 2011 

Amid blistering midsummer heat, summer vacation is ending as schools reopen this week in Frankfort and other Kentucky communities.

Frankfort Independent Schools and Breathitt County Schools opened Monday for the 2011-12 school year. Most other districts open later this week or next, including Fayette County on Aug. 11.

Kentucky school districts have pushed up the start of classes for several years, in part to compensate for expected snow days in the winter. Educators say they're working hard to keep students as comfortable as possible during the hot weather.

"We did a renovation on the heating and air conditioning system at our oldest school building last year, and we put in some new air conditioning equipment at our high school this year, ... so things are better than they were," Frankfort Superintendent Rich Crowe said after classes started Monday. "Right now, we're doing pretty well."

Crowe said, however, that he'd seen an online weather forecast suggesting that it might be 97 degrees on Wednesday.

"Actually, it will be tougher riding home on the buses in the afternoon since the buses don't have air conditioning," he said.

Fortunately, Crowe said, students are on the buses for a maximum of about 15 minutes going to their homes in Frankfort.

But that's not so in the Rockcastle County School District, which is preparing to open on Thursday. Students on some of the 48 bus routes in Rockcastle County might spend almost an hour riding home to distant parts of the county, Superintendent Larry Hammond said.

"All of our buildings are air conditioned, so the real issue is transportation in the afternoons," Hammond said Monday. "Buses are like a big tin can, and they heat up in a hurry when they're standing still. There's not much you can do about it until they get in motion. But we hope that once they get rolling, the breeze will help until the kids get home."

Late July heat already prompted many high schools to put precautions into effect for afternoon football practices and outdoor marching band rehearsals.

But Rockcastle's Hammond said his school district is not planning any special steps for regular students. Officials would take steps such as making water available if necessary, he said.

Jackson County Superintendent Mike Smith also said his district isn't planning any special steps. Jackson County Schools open on Wednesday.

"Our maintenance staff goes through all of our buildings over the summer to make sure all of the air conditioning units are working properly, so I don't think it will be an issue," Smith said. "We had an extremely hot August last year, and we had no problems at all. All the procedures that we need to have in place are in place."

The heat might also be in place — for several more weeks.

"Sad to say, but a week might not get us out of this; two weeks might not get us out of it," Hammond said. "We could be looking at something like this for at least a month."

Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3255.

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