School district addresses heat, weather issues
by Michelle Babcock
August 01, 2013 12:15 AM | 1655 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With school set to open Monday and summer weather still in the forecast, Cherokee County’s school superintendent sent a memo to all county principals Monday on how the school system plans to address environmental and temperature concerns to alleviate parents’ worries.

“You may receive telephone calls, emails and other correspondence/contact from parents concerned with temperatures on school buses, in school facilities and outside during extracurricular activities,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo wrote. “This is to advise that we will again take numerous steps in order to alleviate these concerns.”

Petruzielo said email notifications are sent to principals and athletic directors when smog alerts are issued, and administrators will use the district’s guidelines for outdoor activities to determine when weather or temperature conditions warrant cancellations.

The detailed, nine-page weather conditions guidelines were sent with Petruzielo’s memo, and address extreme hot and cold temperatures, humidity, smog alerts, hydration and rest breaks, heat illness and treatments, how to read the heat index, lightning safety, cancellations because of inclement weather or emergencies and tornado watch and warning procedures.

Heat

To keep students safe when they are involved in outdoor activities in extreme heat conditions, the district requires schools to measure the Wet Bulb Temperature during outdoor activity, the memo said.

The Wet Bulb Temperature is derived from combined dry air temperature, humidity, ground radiated heat and the wind speed at a certain location.

“Practices and games should be held early in the morning and later in the evening to avoid times when environmental conditions are generally more severe,” the guidelines for outdoor extracurricular activities state.

All activities are supposed to monitor the conditions and follow guidelines, and football coaches have to document the Wet Bulb Temperature conditions through August, during d to spring practice in May and other times when conditions warrant.

An “unlimited supply of cold water shall be available to participants during practices and games,” according to the guidelines, and participants should be given “adequate rest periods.”

The guidelines include a heat index chart, which takes into account the environmental temperature and relative humidity, and provides an “apparent temperature” based on the factors. The apparent temperature is what it feels like, and is described as “the reverse of the ‘wind chill factor.’”

There are three levels of concern for the apparent temperature: for 90 to 105 degrees, heat cramps or heat exhaustion are possible; for 105 to 130 degrees, heat cramps or heat exhaustion are likely, and heat strokes are possible; for 130 degrees and higher, heat stroke is likely.

According to the guidelines, no outdoor workouts are allowed if the Wet Bulb Temperature is higher than 92 degrees.

Buses

Out of the school district’s 350 buses, about 49 percent have air conditioning, according to information in the memo that was sent to school officials and a district fact sheet.

All special education buses have air conditioning, about 50 buses, and 119 regular education buses are equipped with AC, according to figures in the memo.

In the memo, the superintendent stated students will be allowed to bring bottled water onto buses “until such time as the temperature cools.”

As stated in the Weather Guidelines for the district, in the case of a tornado watch, meaning “conditions are favorable for the development of a tornado,” buses will continue their routes and use “extreme caution.”

In the case of a tornado warning, meaning a tornado has been spotted, drivers will wait with students inside the school until the warning is lifted.

If bus drivers becomes aware of a warning while in route, they are supposed to get to the nearest educational facility, take the students inside and stay with them, and public buildings such as fire stations or hospitals are an alternative.

There are more specific procedures for drivers to follow during hazardous situations, and bus drivers are required to communicate their location and situation to the Transportation Department during a warning.

Lightning

The Georgia High School Association regulation requires all outdoor venues have lightning detectors and according to district guidelines, trained athletic staff members will activate and monitor the devices.

“Administrators, coaches and athletic trainers must know where the closest ‘safe structure or location’ is relative to the field or playing area,” the guidelines for lightning safety state. “As well as the likely length of time it will take to move everyone to that structure or area.”

If a storm is estimated to be within 10 miles of outdoor activity, the school’s principal or designee will advise the coach or sponsor of the activity that it will be delayed or cancelled, according to the guidelines.

Once the storm has moved beyond a three to eight mile range, and there has been no lightning for 30 minutes, the outdoor activity can resume.

Smog

At this time in 2012, metro Atlanta had already experienced 14 days when air quality exceeded federal guidelines, Clean Air Campaign officials said, including a Code Red and Code Purple day, which are described as unhealthy and very unhealthy for all metro Atlanta residents.

With school starting this Monday, traffic will be rising back to peak levels. Commuters can help reduce smog-forming emissions by choosing to carpool, telework or take transit, since half of the smog-forming emissions in the region come from vehicle tailpipes, officials said.

Commuters can sign up for Smog Alerts so they know when air quality is expected to be poor.

From May 1 through Sept. 30, each school will monitor the Air Quality Index, which will be used to determine Smog Alert days.

Depending on the level of the Air Quality Index reading, on alert days, “activities will be restricted,” according to the district’s guidelines.

Cancellations

If the first day of school is canceled due to inclement weather or some other emergency, all athletics and activities will also be canceled.

In this case, there would be “no games, performances or practices,” and “all school-based meeting/functions are canceled,” according to the cancellation guidelines.

When early dismissal of school occurs, the superintendent of schools or the appropriate designee will transmit instructions to administrators, and there will be no games, performances or practices, and all school-based meetings and functions will be canceled.

In the case of subsequent days of school being canceled, on the second day, activities and functions can resume if weather and conditions permit. Directives will come from the superintendent or a designee and “If clearance to resume activities cannot be obtained by 2 p.m. the day of the scheduled activity, cancellation will continue to be in effect,” the guidelines state.

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