Schools From Philadelphia To Los Angeles Close Early Due To Heat Waves

Schools across the nation were forced to close early, move to remote learning or shift activities amid heat waves stretching from Philadelphia to Los Angeles this week.

In Philadelphia, officials decided to close 118 schools three hours early on both Tuesday and Wednesday, saying the buildings did not have “sufficient cooling systems.” The shift came during the first day of the new school year, impacting thousands of students amid warnings some buildings could reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more indoors.

“Fifty-seven percent of our schools don’t have adequate air conditioning where we can guarantee all staff and children will be appropriately cool,” Tony Watlington, the superintendent of Philadelphia’s school district, said this week. “We will continue to study and take a look at what all our options are.”

In Baltimore, nearly two dozen schools took similar steps on Monday and Tuesday because they had no air conditioning amid a heat wave. Ten schools in Cleveland, Ohio, were also forced to move to remote learning this week, even though the school year just began.

And health officials in Los Angeles were warning residents to prepare for the hottest, longest heat wave of the year, with temperatures expected to rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. School districts in some parts of Southern California shifted school practices to mornings and canceled some events, while some schools said they would move recess indoors to protect students from the severe weather.

“We hear you, parents — it’s too hot,” Nick Melvoin, the vice president of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s board of education, told families this week, per KTLA. “We need to make sure kids are indoors, or when they’re outdoors we have water and shade, and we’re doing all we can to get ready for this week.”

Weather officials also declared San Diego would be under an excessive heat warning beginning Wednesday, with temperatures possibly reaching up to 109 degrees. Some schools in the city reported issues with their air conditioning systems last week, prompting early closures to protect students.

The heat waves cap a summer of temperature extremes in the United States. Millions sweltered during an unseasonably hot July, and average overnight temperatures soared to their highest levels in recorded history that month, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“In the U.S., the heat was pervasive and persistent as atmospheric high-pressure systems established stagnant heat domes, which placed more than 150 million people under heat warnings and advisories,” NASA’s Earth Observatory wrote last month. “Nearly every region of the continental U.S. experienced above-average temperatures. Several states saw record-breaking triple-digit highs, some for days on end.”

Scientists have long warned that climate change will only make heat waves more severe and more common as the planet warms from the burning of fossil fuels. Researchers say large swaths of the country could experience triple-digit days regularly throughout the summer by the middle of this century.

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