By BRANDON L. SUMMERS
Fort Dodge schools will release at 1:10 p.m. due to excessive heat, as they did Monday.
Charla Holmes and her son, Ashton Snodgrass, 4, of Fort Dodge, walk through the water at the Oleson Park Splash Pad Thursday afternoon to try and cool off in the extreme heat Monday. The pair were among many at the splash pad trying to beat the heat with the water.
"We have four buildings that are not fully air-conditioned, and so those buildings become a very difficult environment for children to concentrate and learn in when they heat up into the upper 80s and 90-degree levels," Jennifer Lane, Fort Dodge Community School District director of communications, said.
Duncombe and Cooper elementary schools, Riverside Early Learning Center and portions of Fort Dodge Senior High do not have air-conditioning, raising concerns about the comfort of its students.
"We have several buildings that aren't air-conditioned and just for the safety and comfort level of our staff and students we need to make sure that we try to give them an opportunity not to be in those hot classrooms all day," Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, said.
The district is first responsible to its students, Lane said.
"Our priority is obviously providing a safe and comfortable environment for the kids to learn in, and when the buildings get that warm we don't feel like that's going to happen as well as it should," she said.
According to Van Zyl, students and staff alike struggle in such high heat.
"The issue is kids can't learn," he said. "They're sweating and feeling uncomfortable. Teachers can't teach as well. It's just not a good environment for them to be in."
It would also be unfair to only release students from those schools without air-conditioning, Van Zyl said.
"We have some schools that are air-conditioned, and those kids could probably be fine, but we can't just let half of our kids out and keep the other half in," he said. "We're required by the state to make sure we meet a minimum number of hours of instruction. It would also increase costs, because we'd be running two routes for busses to be able to do those things."
He added, "It just boils down to the well-being of the kids and staff."
Such days, Van Zyl said, are considered when preparing the calendar for the school year.
"This is Iowa. There's no guarantee in the middle of September that it's not going to be 100 degrees," he said. "People have said, why don't you just start later? Well, then we are going to finish later. June has the tendency to also be a month that can be hot or it can be cold."
Lane said Monday there could be further early dismissal days due to heat.
"Dr .Van Zyl is looking at the forecast and anticipating being able to make a decision hopefully by midday tomorrow regarding what to do for the rest of the week so we can try to give parents some notice in the event they need to make different plans for their children," she said.
Earl dismissal information is available on the FDCSD website at www.fort-dodge.k12.ia.us, as well as its Twitter and Facebook accounts and via Infinite Campus. For more information, contact the central administration office at 576-1161.