SOUTHINGTON — High school and middle school students returned to school Thursday for a full day, but extreme heat forced an early dismissal at the town’s elementary schools.
Parents were notified Wednesday that elementary schools would close shortly after noon on the first day because of a lack of air-conditioned classrooms.
“I don’t understand why the middle schools and high schools have air conditioning but the elementary schools don’t,” said Jamie Sencio, a mother of two children who attend Derynoski School. “If it was just my fifth-grader, I would have said ‘stay home.’ ”
But her younger daughter was eager to attend her first day of kindergarten. For Sencio, that meant waiting in the line with other parents in front of the school to pick up her daughter before racing the bus home to be there when her fifth-grader was dropped off. Kindergartners cannot ride the bus on the first day.
“They have a long weekend coming up too,” Sencio said.
Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan announced the early dismissal in an e-mail to parents on Wednesday.
“Data collected (Wednesday) showed that many of the classrooms were already in the low to mid eighty degree range early this morning,” Connellan said in the email. “It will not be possible to cool those rooms sufficiently overnight to avoid the potential for an extremely uncomfortable environment Thursday afternoon. I cannot imagine that much productive learning can take place when the heat index climbs to the levels we are experiencing currently.”
Some parents waiting to pick students up at Derynoski shared similar complaints, while others said the decision was correct even though the situation might be difficult for some parents.
Kim Kelly never considered keeping her two children home after receiving the e-mail.
“It’s a great first start and shows them what to expect,” Kelly said.
Second-grader Jonah Tonn was disappointed he had to leave his classroom and friends early.
“Yeah, I wanted to stay,” Jonah said.
“Initially though it was a little ridiculous,” said Jonah’s mother Tiffany Tonn. “I really hope this school gets air.”
There are long term plans to install air conditioning in the elementary schools and it was added to the capital improvement budget last year. But the district had other projects to complete, such as the middle school renovation and the elementary school enrollment study.
The Derynoski building, because of its age, requires more work to renovate than the town’s seven other elementary schools.
“It’s there on the table,” Connellan said. “We have to find a way to have our elementary schools air conditioned, so we don’t have disruptions in the educational process.”
The YMCA also runs its after school program that enrolls about 50 children in the elementary school. According to YMCA Executive Director John Myers, while other town schools have some air conditioned areas, Derynoski is a challenge.
“Our staff is going to be trying to find the coolest place in the school or outside under the shade,” Myers said. “We encouraged parents that if they can pick them up to do so, but we’re there for them if they need us.”
Derynoski principal Jan Verderame said that, with the exception of the heat, the first day of school went smoothly.
“The kids were raring to go,” Verderame said. “Typically on the first day, they are are excited to be in and ready to learn. Everything went smoothly.”