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Updated: CPS handed out personal fans to students for the heat

2013-09-11 Some 36,000 of these handheld fans were made available to CPS schools who needed them to deal with the heat. Photo provided to Sun-Times.

The Chicago Public Schools has a solution to help kids deal with the terrible heat: 36,000 tiny portable fans.

And a first-grader who used one of the fans ended up with a haircut.

Shortly after the fans were handed out Wednesday morning at Smyser Elementary School, where only the upper grades have air conditioning, a 6-year-old’s hair got caught in her fan and her teacher had to cut it out, according to the girl’s mother, Suzanne Kusar.

Not every CPS school is fully air-conditioned, so as this week’s temps tied record highs, the district amassed 36,000 personal fans and distributed them to at least 33 schools that requested them, according to district spokeswoman Keiana Barrett.

The foam-bladed fans, 17,200 of which were handed out, were donated, according to Barrett. She could not immediately name the donor.

Smyser received about 480 fans and handed them out Wednesday, when the heat fell short of 90 degrees, slightly cooler than Tuesday’s whopping 95 degrees, Kusar said.

Kusar said her daughter told her that kids were putting the fans in their mouths and the fans were taken away.

She told her mom that the teacher said: “Keep these at home tomorrow. Do not bring them back.”

Kusar said the idea that handheld fans would be a solution to the heat was “evidence of CPS’ disconnect.”

The district handed out 800 regular-size fans to schools that asked for them.

CPS said 330 schools are fully air-conditioned and 153 schools have partial air conditioning. Forty schools are not air-conditioned, but they can request fans.

Boone Elementary also received 480 fans on Wednesday, according to a school staffer. Boone is listed as having partial air conditioning, according to a list CPS provided in December to the school utilization commission that recommended which schools to close. About 50 schools that received children from the 47 elementary schools and one high school program that closed in June were supposed to get full air conditioning over the summer.

Meanwhile, CPS has provided heat protocol recommendations to all schools. Unlike some suburban districts, city schools have remained open on these unusually hot days. Thursday’s forecast calls for a high of 70.

“We encourage parents to keep their children in class to ensure they not only receive the critical instruction they need, but our schools provide a safe environment with the nutrition and hydration students need to be as comfortable as possible,” CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in a prepared statement.

Email: lfitzpatrick@suntimes.com

Twitter: @bylaurenfitz