By ERIN ROLL
Students will be dismissed early their first day of school due to a heat wave. A heat advisory has been issued until 7 p.m., tonight, Sept. 6.
At Wednesday night’s BOE meeting, Superintendent Kendra Johnson said the district would be dismissing early on days when the temperatures make it too uncomfortable for students and staff to work. “And that may occur as soon as tomorrow,” she said.
A notice to parents and staff was sent in the morning.
“While we eagerly welcome students, due to forecasts of excessive heat, the district is scheduling an abbreviated day (early dismissal). This decision is based on weather advisories and the concern for our students’ and staff members’ health and safety,” the email stated.
All after care has also been canceled.
Several school districts in the area have also closed or have early dismissals.
This week, daytime temperatures reached into the high 80s and lower 90s, with a heat index of the mid-90s. Thursday’s temperatures were expected to reach 94 degrees.
Watchung parents are especially frustrated by the lack of progress on capital improvements, including some much-needed air conditioning upgrades.
The parents of the school’s fifth-graders took it upon themselves to raise money to buy window A/C units for the fifth-grade classrooms, which are the only ones in the school that do not have built-in temperature control.
The buildings and grounds department decided to install another kind of A/C unit, but decided to go back to window A/C units, but the units have not been installed yet.
“We did everything by the book, as you asked,” PTA President Selma Avdicevic said. She said the buildings and grounds department had promised to have the units purchased and installed by July, and she noted that it was now September, the first week of school.
She also noted that Watchung parents raised money to buy a new audiovisual unit for the school, and the district had not yet installed it. “We gave you everything that you asked for and it has still not happened,” she said.
Johnson acknowledged that the window A/C units should have been installed in July. Storm damage to the schools in the August floods pushed back several other projects.
“No excuses. The Watchung parents did everything they were supposed to do,” Johnson said, promising she would look into the matter.
The district has also planned to replace the HVAC system that encompasses Watchung’s auditorium after parents said the temperatures in the auditorium frequently became too warm for students’ comfort in the spring and summer. The students use the room as a waiting area for pickups. But that project had to go out to bid again after the sole submitted bid went over the district’s budget.
Board member Joe Kavesh concurred that something had to be done. “She has every right to be frustrated,” he said of Avdicevic. “Frankly, I would be frustrated if she weren’t frustrated.”
Coaches and student athletes needed to be extra careful during the high temperatures, he said. “You see these top-flight athletes at the U.S. Open dropping like flies,” he said. “We need to be extra safe. Not sorry. Extra safe when it comes to the health of our student athletes.”
Schools will be dismissed on the following schedule Thursday, Sept. 6:
Glenfield and Buzz Aldrin – 12:40 p.m.
Montclair High – 1:07 p.m.
Edgemont, Northeast and Renaissance – 1:10 p.m.
Bradford, Charles H. Bullock and Watchung – 1:40 p.m.
Developmental Learning Center – 1:40 p.m.
Hillside and Nishuane – 2:10 p.m.