Schools off to hot start

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Fans were in demand as Warwick schools opened Tuesday to heat and humidity that made it feel more like the middle of the summer than a prelude to fall.

“Many teachers brought their own fans in,” said Sherman School Acting Principal Charlee McElroy as students streamed into the building after lining up by class in the schoolyard. What they found were conditions considerably more comfortable than outside, although that wasn’t expected to last.

McElroy put Sherman’s enrollment at about 320, a number she said fluctuated right up to opening day.

“We were registering students last week,” she said.

Elsewhere in the city, Catherine Bonang in the Superintendent’s office said that certain classrooms with students or teachers with breathing issues have window air conditioner units set up in them. She also said that Lippitt Elementary School is fully air conditioned, because it has the bulk of the special needs program, and Veterans Middle School is also fully air conditioned after recent renovations.

Superintendent Phil Thornton added faculty and staff are doing their best to keep students comfortable with fans, frequent water breaks, and indoor recess. Recess was held indoors Tuesday, Bonang said, but not on Wednesday because the temperature outside wasn’t as high.

Bonang also said that an early dismissal may be possible for Thursday because of the predicted heat index. She said a decision would be made sometime in the late afternoon Wednesday and parents would be notified Wednesday night if they do decide on an early dismissal. She said that there are some challenges in doing so because many elementary school students still haven’t gotten back their information sheets that tell the schools who to release them to. She also said that the Boys and Girls Clubs of Warwick doesn’t open until 2:00 p.m., so they would have to check with them to see if they could get proper staffing earlier in the day.

If they were to make the decision Wednesday, she said they’d be asking parents to have their children bring in their information sheets Thursday so the schools could dismiss them to the right people.

Bonang added that there haven’t been a large number of complaints about the heat from parents, at least through her office.

“School openings have gone very well over the first two days of school here in Warwick,” said Thornton. “We are now working through routine matter of fine tuning bus runs and addressing any school building items that come up at our 19 school locations this year.”

In a new school change this year, Warwick elementary schools no longer include sixth grade. Sixth graders have now joined seventh and eighth graders in middle schools at what were formerly Veterans and Winman Junior High Schools. But this hasn’t reduced enrollment at most elementary schools, as with the closures of Wickes, Randall Holden and John Brown Francis, those students have been disbursed throughout the system.

John Brown Francis has been re-purposed as the Early Childhood Center that had been at Drum Rock. Drum Rock has been incorporated into the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center program.

McElroy said Sherman School was prepared for the heat and, apart from the fans, school nurse Donna Rainone was prepared for any students demonstrating adverse effects.

(With reports from Tom Greenberg)

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