Excessive heat causes schools to close

Aug. 26—DANVILLE — Only two weeks into the new school year for Danville School District 118 students, and Mother Nature called for school closures Thursday and Friday due to excessive heat.

On Wednesday, school district officials told families that due to Thursday's increasingly high temperatures and the hottest part of the day was predicted to be when students are being transported, schools were closed on Thursday.

School district officials stated on Thursday night: "Due to the extended heat advisory which is now in effect until 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, all District 118 schools will be closed Friday, Aug. 25. Please be safe and take care of yourself during this unprecedented weather."

"We appreciate your patience as we work to keep your children and the staff safe and comfortable," officials stated.

Superintendent Alicia Geddis said the district had to take inclement weather days, instead of remote learning days, due to all students not having Chromebooks yet.

She said they didn't want students out in the heat.

The two days will have to be made up at the end of the school year in May 2024.

Danville High School was one school without working air conditioning in some classrooms.

But some of the biggest issues were with buses.

The school board Wednesday night heard from a school bus driver about the hot, dangerous conditions on the buses which don't have air conditioning. The kids are sitting sometimes three to a seat on the hot, packed buses, and some students have to spend a longer time on the bus to their home.

The driver, who also has a health condition, said it can be about 135 degrees on a bus. She said a first grader passed out and vomited due to the heat earlier this week.

The bus drivers care about "their" kids, she added.

Another resident, who lives on Gilbert Street, also told another story about a lost boy, a kindergartner, getting off a bus and going to her home. She asked that all children have identification in their backpacks. She said this situation could have ended up a tragedy if she hadn't been there to help the boy.

Also Wednesday, the board heard a construction update from Buildings and Grounds Director Skip Truex.

He said 90 percent of the construction is completed at DHS on the 1972 addition renovations. An open house will be announced after Labor Day for that wing of the school for the public to see.

Heating and air conditioning work at South View Upper Elementary School is about completed, and at North Ridge Middle School and Mark Denman Elementary School, equipment is still scheduled to come in. Temporary and window air units have been in some offices and the cafetoriums. Mark Denman and North Ridge are about 70 percent complete. Boilers will be in by the end of September.

Condensor, air handler and equipment in general lead times are not getting any better, Truex said.

The building addition at Northeast Elementary Magnet School is on schedule or a little ahead of schedule, and looking really good, Truex said. Precast walls for the multi-purpose room should be here around the second week of October. The building should be buttoned hopefully up by winter for work to continue inside.

The same can be expected for Kenneth D. Bailey Academy. It's a little behind schedule, about two weeks, on its addition construction. Truex said that school is more confined and access can be more difficult there. They had to close part of Main Street relating to the sewer work.

KDBA has new paint and lighting, as the inside of the building has changed, and areas have been sectioned off.

Truex said they were pouring more footings this week and will start setting the walls.

The bricklayers at Northeast have been busy too, he said.

He said it should be noted that the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (COVID-19) money that the government gave to school districts has paid for many of the projects.

"That's helped the district in being able to allocate money for the '72 addition (at DHS) and other projects," Truex said.

"We have a lot of things happening right now," he said.

Board member Darlene Halloran said the DHS improvements have been impressive, including the state-of-the art science rooms and biology labs and media center in the library.

"I was so proud of what our school is and what it has to offer," she said.

Halloran also complimented new DHS principal Jacob Bretz on creating a good environment for the students.

In other business, the board approved: a three-year collective bargaining agreement with food service employees with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local #399, through June 30, 2026; renewing commercial property and liability insurance with Liberty Mutual Insurance for $340,576, an increase of $30,513 due to increases in building replacement costs, building values and construction costs; college and career readiness seminar; DHS Choirs New Orleans trip in March 2024; and heard about a DHS acceleration process some students can choose for classes.

The board had a first reading on library policy manual and administration procedures. This includes that the school libraries in Illinois cannot ban books. The school district already has procedures regarding placing books in the libraries that are relevant and age-appropriate for students.

The board also heard there's been a 40 percent increase, instead of an expected 10 percent increase, of students in the district's instrumental program.

The school district's 8-day enrollment for the new school year that started Aug. 11 was 4,223, which is down some from last year.

The board also watched a video about the summer Fine Arts Academy that 140 students participated in, and heard about summer camps and opportunities some students had such as at Eastern Illinois University, University of Illinois and Danville Area Community College.