Triple digit temperatures have been threatening Oklahomans for weeks on end but now that school is starting back up again these scorching temperatures have a new target, elementary recess.
During the most recent School Board Meeting, the School Board discussed the ongoing heat wave and its impact on elementary age children, recess, and playground equipment. Moore elementary school students may be partaking in an indoor recess for the first few weeks of school, or until temperatures drop.
“It’s going to be kind of sad, there’s a possibility that on the first day of school that its going to be a perfectly clear sky sunny day but it’s going to be too hot to go outside, that’s something we’ve discussed as a faculty already and something we are prepared to deal with,” said Heritage Trails Elementary Principal Jason Perez.
Principal Perez not only speaks on behalf of the children at his elementary school, he also has a first grade son in the Moore School District.
“We just don’t want it to be miserable for them, because then they aren’t going to be able to pay attention in class,” said Perez.
The heat index isn’t the only problem educators are faced with. The physical temperature of the playground equipment is now also a factor. The combination of triple digit temperatures, a sunny day, and a set of playground equipment could be treacherous for these kids.
“Those products tend to get hot pretty quick and of course we’ll have a lot of kids in shorts and summertime and springtime apparel and we don’t want them burned in anyway shape or form,” said Robert Romines, Assistant Superintendent, Elementary Education and Instructional Personnel. “We’ve done some site checks and visits just to see for ourselves what type of heat were on the playground equipment and they are extremely hot.”
A few quick fixes may make the playground equipment bearable but schools are still leaning toward the solution of an indoor recess.
“You can try different things, you can try putting water on it, but those are only temporary fixes and we don’t want one group to be fine and the next group to be burnt so you’ve got to look at equipment and you’ve got to look at all the different things that go into recess,” said Perez.
Each day, the Elementary Education office will send an email prompting schools how to handle that day’s recess. If temperatures range between 90 and 95 degrees, recess will be modified and the students will spend between 10 and 15 minutes outside and if the temperature is 95 degrees or higher, students will have an indoor recess. The heat index is taken into consideration when make the decisions.
During the wintertime, 32-35 degree wind chill will constitute inside recess. Additionally, icy and/or snowy conditions can make outside recess unsafe and therefore will constitute inside recess.
While inside recess may not be ideal, teachers work to make the best of the situation.
“It’s kind of nice, each teacher has a plan for inside recess. They have games, they have learning activities, we have computers in the classroom, which they can get on and do different programs,” said Perez. “We try to make recess still recess while it’s inside, it’s not as much fun for the kids because they can’t yell and scream and run, but we realize that they need their time to have a break too, so we try to make sure it’s engaging, they aren’t just stuck sitting at their desk doing work when they should be having some fun and talking to their friends.”
This past week, the Moore area has seen some relief from the heat. It’s uncertain if these cooler temperatures will stick around and while Principal Perez is hoping these temps last, he’s prepared to battle the heat.
“It needs to cool off outside, that’s it, we need a break. We’re ready for the kids and we’re ready for the heat if that’s what we have to do and I feel real confident that we’re going to do whatever’s best for the kids because that’s what we always do,” said Perez.
Romines completed kindergarten thru the 12th grade in the Moore Public Schools District and has been employed with the district for 17 years now. He said this is the first time he has had to prepare for an indoor recess due to heat.
“We hope we have a fall. I’ve been around for a long time, I haven’t worked in the district, but I’ve been in Moore all of my life, we’ve never had to deal with the extreme temperatures that we’ve dealt with this summer and of course with the start of school. This is a first since I’ve been around.”