Heat wave keeps students indoors for safety
It’s bad enough when you have to go back to school before August is half-finished. Now, a heat wave is keeping some Valley students indoors all day long.
Children in west-side schools such as Mendota and Kerman stayed indoors Monday because of excessive heat and poor air quality.
“The safety of our children and their health are our top priority,” said Michael Crass, superintendent of the Mendota Unified School District.
Monday was the first day of school for Mendota Unified. Throughout the day, Crass said he and his staff monitored the weather and checked the area’s air quality on the Internet.
“We’re hoping this (heat wave) ends soon,” he said.
That’s not likely, said the National Weather Service in Hanford, which issued an excessive-heat warning Monday for the central and southern San Joaquin Valley and forecast triple-digit temperatures through Monday.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District also reported unhealthy air for Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties. Madera and Kings counties had moderate air quality.
“It’s going to be hot the rest of the week,” said Brian Ochs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford.
Operators of California’s electricity grid have declared a Flex Alert for Tuesday to encourage conservation as inland regions continue to swelter in high heat. The California Independent System Operator said Monday that the forecast peak demand is 47,500 megawatts and conservation will be critical.
Monday, temperatures in the Valley ranged from 105 degrees to 110 degrees, he said. Fresno recorded a high of 110 degrees, two digits from a record set in 1996, Ochs said.
The forecast for the Valley today calls for highs from 101 to 107 with light winds in the morning but up to 10 mph in the afternoon. It should be mostly clear tonight with lows from 65 to 75 degrees.
A persistent high pressure ridge over the Valley has bottled in the heat, Ochs said.
So far, 11 of the first 13 days in August have hit or exceeded the century mark, pushing the year’s total to 29 days. An average summer here has 38 days with high temperatures of 100 or more degrees, Ochs said. The record for triple-digit days in one year is 63, set in 1984.
High heat can cause undue stress on people, pets and livestock. Because the weather could lead to serious medical conditions such as stroke or heat exhaustion, Valley school districts were taking preventive measures.
“It’s been difficult for everyone,” said Kerman Unified Superintendent Robert Frausto, whose district went back to school Thursday. “The kids want to go outside and play, but they have to stay indoors when it’s like this.”
The extra time with students doesn’t bother Sharon Nakagawa, a second-grade teacher at Sun Empire Elementary School in Kerman.
She said her students are so excited about being back at school that they don’t complain about the heat. To keep them busy — and happy — Nakagawa said she plays indoor games with her pupils.
“They will be fine,” she said. “Second-graders are more interested in showing off their new clothes and seeing their friends than complaining about how hot it is.”
Classes at Fresno Unified School District don’t start until next week, but district officials limited sports team practices to morning hours Monday and today because of triple-digit temperatures.
In addition, no athletic activity will be allowed between 2 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. During the heat wave, students have been advised to stay hydrated.
Clovis Unified also kept an eye on the weather, but it is up to coaches and athletic directors at each school site to determine when to curtail practice or bring it indoors, spokeswoman Kelly Avants said.
Classes at Fresno and Clovis Unified schools are scheduled to begin Monday. The school year at Central Unified begins Wednesday.
By Pablo Lopez