As the heat cranks up, Boston Public Schools will remain open on first day of year, officials say


The scorching heat is disrupting the start of the year for multiple school districts across the region, but in Boston, officials say students will stay cool in the classroom.

As the heat index value approaches 100 on Thursday, students will be returning to Boston Public Schools for the first time this year.

“In general, when it’s hot, for all of us, it can be uncomfortable,” Superintendent Mary Skipper said Wednesday, “particularly in getting back and forth from school for our students. We’re going to make this as fun as possible for them.”

Skipper expressed confidence that the first day will go smoothly, largely due to how much the district has invested in air conditioning over the past year. About $9.2 million of the district’s $400 million in federal virus relief funds has been pumped into installing air conditioning units across its buildings, according to figures.

At the start of last year, just 20 schools had 916 cooling units, but those numbers have risen significantly. Roughly 78 buildings are now equipped with more than 3,800 units, figures show.

The 14 schools that don’t have any form of air conditioning will be relying on open windows, “plenty of fans,” and “lots of water,” Skipper said. Roughly 38 buildings have central air.

A final decision on how sports will be affected will be made Thursday morning, the superintendent said, adding officials are stressing to building leadership that exposure to the outdoors should be limited.

Speaking to reporters about back-to-school plans, Mayor Michelle Wu used the opportunity to highlight the urgency of her “Green New Deal,” a $2 billion attempt to fix the many long-standing woes of the city’s beleaguered school system.

“It takes an incredible amount of planning and coordination and staff time and resources to try to manage when many, many of our buildings are just old and need to be updated,” the mayor said.

The peak of the heat stretch is expected Thursday, when indices may approach 100, according to the National Weather Service. A heat advisory that went into effect Wednesday will remain through Thursday, but the weather service says the oppressive may persist into Friday.

It’s gotten so rough in Lowell that public school officials there announced Wednesday that classes are off for the rest of the week.

“The temperatures in many classrooms are expected to be too hot for teachers to teach effectively,” a post on the district’s Facebook page stated. “This decision was made out concern for the health and safety of Lowell Public School staff and students.”

Worcester Public Schools will dismiss three hours early Thursday and Friday, and all sports games will remain canceled until at least Friday, according to officials in a Facebook post.

Framingham Public Schools will also release early Thursday, with all afternoon and evening activities shut down.

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