Heat closes MPS schools early, A/C funding issues

The heat on Wednesday, Aug. 25 sent Milwaukee Public Schools students home early. Some worried kids would suffer heatstroke inside buildings that don’t have air conditioning.

Although the superintendent said he’s wasn't aware of any such cases as school buses rolled up to Golda Meir Wednesday morning, students were ready to roll down the windows.

"We have fans, so it’s not that bad," said Courtney Lambert.

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There’s no air conditioning at some MPS schools, and with the heat index hitting 97 degrees, the district made the decision to send students home early.

"Today, I think it’s just hot outside," said Ophelia King. "They are just trying to do what’s best."

Dismissal came at 11:30, and at River Trail School on Milwaukee's northwest side, students were released at 12:30.

"I just didn’t understand it for a little bit," said Lemir Burks. "I know the kids need to be in school.  That’s what they want to do."

Not everyone agreed with the district's early dismissal decision.

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"It was a wasted school day!" said Beverly Hamilton-Williams.

Hamilton-Williams says she worked for MPS for 20 years and said she has grandkids currently enrolled.

"When it’s this hot and you know that these children are wearing these face masks, schools should have been canceled," said Hamilton-Williams.

An MPS spokesman said Golda Meir, in particular, has "temporary cooling units in the building," adding some teachers are holding classes outside and are taking mask breaks.

"I can’t imagine having to wear masks all day!" said Mary Fieldhack.

Superintendent Keith Posley said funding is the issue keeping air conditioning from being a priority.  MPS said a high school upgrade, for example, could cost $2.5 million.

"That is something we will take a very close look at, but when we come down to dollars, we have to make sure we have enough dollars to educate our children, as well," said Posley.

School leaders say there have also been issues in the past with window air conditioner units, like exhausting the power load in old buildings. Lower temperatures Thursday mean MPS will likely be back to regular hours.

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