Extreme heat moves CPS recess, activities indoors; sports games postponed

Temperatures are expected to hit the mid-90s with dangerous heat indexes soaring up to 115 degrees, the National Weather Service said.

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High School students exit Roosevelt High School in Albany Park, after their first day of the 2023-2024 school year, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.

CPS students will face extreme heat during their first week of school. All recess and outdoor activities are moving indoors.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Recess and outdoor activities at Chicago Public Schools will be moved indoors this week and outdoor sports games and practices will be postponed Wednesday and Thursday because of the extreme heat forecasted to hit the city.

Temperatures are expected to hit the mid-90s with dangerous heat indexes soaring up to 115 degrees, the National Weather Service said in an excessive heat watch that runs from Wednesday morning through Thursday evening.

“As a reminder, all CPS classrooms are equipped with air conditioning, and the CPS facilities team will be working with schools to fix any air conditioning systems that may encounter issues this week,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez wrote in an email to all district families Tuesday.

The start of the school year typically features breakdowns in air conditioning at schools across the city. The average CPS building is about 83 years old.

The concerns this year have been exacerbated by the district’s mid-August start to the school year, a change since the pandemic. CPS had long stuck with a post-Labor Day start even when suburban districts moved earlier into August. Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates criticized CPS on Monday for “haphazardly” introducing the new calendar given the heat that typically descends on Chicago this month.

A CPS spokeswoman didn’t immediately say how many calls had come in about weak or broken AC the first two days of school. The district said Monday it hadn’t heard of any major problems.

Officials recommend students bring full water bottles to school the rest of this week and said teachers will give kids opportunities to refill them throughout the day.

The district’s extreme heat plan also includes: Drawing shades in rooms to keep sunlight out; turning off overhead lights, computers and appliances when not in use; and moving classes from rooms exposed to sunlight to auditoriums or lower-level rooms.

School staffers are also working to create temporary committees to identify heat concerns this week and notify the district’s central office.

All outdoor sports games are postponed Wednesday and Thursday, officials announced, and all practices will either be canceled or moved indoors for those two days. Tickets already purchased for those games won’t be refunded, but they can be used for the rescheduled game. Sports can resume as scheduled on Friday unless otherwise updated.

The city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications also advised Chicagoans to drink plenty of water, avoid spending time outside, keep electric lights off or turned down, minimize use of ovens and stoves, and wear light, loose and cotton clothing. People and pets shouldn’t be left in cars, even for a few minutes.

Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; a fast and weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness; dizziness; and headache. A heat stroke would also include a body temperature above 103 degrees, hot or red skin and a fast and strong pulse. Officials advise calling 911 immediately at the sign of heat stroke.

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