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Heatwave impacts schools in the Northwoods

Martin Bureau
AFP/Getty Images

Across the Northwoods, fall term is starting in many school districts.

At the same time, a heat wave sweeps across our region, pushing temperatures into the 90’s.

It’s not unheard of, but we normally see temperatures around the 60s in September.

In the Northwoods, cold is normally more of a problem than heat.

Many schools don’t have air conditioning systems.

Larry Palubicki, District Administrator of Laona School District, said that certain offices have AC, but the school does not.

“We’ve had classrooms that have pulled their blinds or shut off a light or two just to try to keep it cool,” he said.

Vince Czahor, principal of Beecher-Dunbar-Pembine School, explains that only parts of their building have AC.

“Students have been impacted. We wanted to make sure they are hydrated in and out, when they’re doing activities both inside and outside of our school. They all have a school provided water bottle,” he said.

For classrooms impacted by extreme heat, they’ve relocated students to the air-conditioned cafeteria and library.

Teachers have questioned why there isn’t a policy regarding extreme heat in place, since there is none currently.

Czahor said that since their small, rural district depends on operational referendums, they might consider upgrading their AC system, but a boiler in need of repair will demand their attention and funding first.

Scott Foster, District Administrator at Northlands Pines School District, said that some of the buildings in his district have AC but many don’t.

“Many of our elementary classrooms unfortunately do not have air conditioning. It is a long day but we keep an eye on our students and make sure they’re hydrated and in the shade. We make sure we make the best of the situation,” he said.

Eric Burke, superintendent of the School District of Rhinelander, said that heatwaves are not generally a problem.

“I mean up here we only get one week at the beginning of school and one week at the end of school, so it’s usually not much of an issue,” he said.

While districts in the Northwoods that WXPR spoke with continued their school day through the heat, the state’s largest school district in Milwaukee closed early due to the temperatures.

This week’s wave of extreme heat is a part of a larger global trend of record high temperatures.

For example, this July was officially the hottest on recordsince NASA began recording temperatures in the 1800s.

A 2021 report by the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts predicted that the state will increasingly see warmer and wetter conditions.

This could lead to districts facing this issue more often in the future.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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