Region's schools adjust amid hot weather

Sophomores Melina Cousens, left, and Lindsay Clement walk down the hall on the second floor to go downstairs for lunch Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, the first day of school year, at Saint Bernard School in Uncasville. Because of the high temperatures Tuesday, the school temporarily has suspended its uniform policy. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Sophomores Melina Cousens, left, and Lindsay Clement walk down the hall on the second floor to go downstairs for lunch Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, the first day of school year, at Saint Bernard School in Uncasville. Because of the high temperatures Tuesday, the school temporarily has suspended its uniform policy. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Whether it's altering athletic practice schedules, adjusting the uniform policy or adding cooling stations, schools across the region are making accommodations for the current steamy weather.

Norwich Free Academy canceled all practices and games on Tuesday.

"The air quality, anticipated Heat Index of 100-105 degrees, as well as the turf pushing close to 140 degrees, create an unsafe environment for any level of physical exertion," NFA spokesman Geoff Serra said in a statement. Athletic Director Eric Swallow will monitor conditions Wednesday.

Both NFA freshmen and students at the Sachem Campus transitional program will have a half-day Wednesday.

Ian Neviaser, superintendent of Lyme-Old Lyme schools, said some of the sports practices in his district have been shortened.

The practices on Wednesday afternoon "will be significantly shortened," and the district's intent is to bring in a cooling station, he said. That includes a large tub of ice water and fans that blow cool water.

Fortunately, as of the beginning of last year, all buildings in the district are air-conditioned. Also air-conditioned is the Marine Science Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut, though Principal Nicholas Spera noted that HVAC staff will be on standby in case a unit goes out during the day.

Classes start on Wednesday for MSMHS, along with the public schools in Preston, Norwich, Montville and Waterford.

The Preston Veterans' Memorial School is air-conditioned, while the older Preston Plains Middle School is not. Superintendent Roy Seitsinger said students and staff are being told to wear light-weight clothing, keep hydrated, stay out of the sun and rest when necessary.

In Norwich, Superintendent Abby Dolliver said students will stay indoors for recess and be rotated through cooler sections of buildings, and that staff will ensure they stay hydrated.

The heat prompted officials at Saint Bernard School, which resumed classes Tuesday, to suspend its uniform policy until Tuesday, Sept. 4. Headmaster Don Macrino noted the school also suspended athletic practices on Tuesday and said officials were "generally keeping an eye on people to see if they need water or anything."

Montville's acting Superintendent Laurie Pallin said recess is likely to be held indoors on Wednesday, and the athletic director is following the policy for practices.

The policy is to delay practices when the heat index — the temperature it "feels like" — is between 90 and 94 degrees, and to suspend them if the heat index gets over 95.

Ledyard High School Athletic Director Jim Buonocore said he made the decision about 10 a.m., when the Heat Index was 95 and rising, to cancel all athletic practices for the remainder of the day at his school. For Wednesday, practices may be held from 6 to 8:30 a.m. at Ledyard for a maximum of 90 minutes.

“I can’t recall ever having to shut down completely due to heat in my tenure,” Buonocore said Tuesday. “We’ve had to make adjustments and certainly alterations to the practice plan ... but the safety and health and well-being of our student-athletes is the most important thing."

“It wasn’t a very difficult decision. I knew this morning when I was on my way to school at about 6:30 that it was going to be something we were going to be dealing with,” he said.

In Waterford, Superintendent Tom Giard said officials are taking precautions with athletics, keeping them indoors until at least 6 p.m. unless conditions are much better by 5:30 p.m. The district has not made any final decision on outdoor recesses, Giard said.

Groton Superintendent Michael Graner said a football scrimmage scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday was pushed to 7 p.m., and that practices were moved from the afternoon to the early morning. Teachers are doing professional development this week in the high school, which is air-conditioned throughout.

Groton, like New London and Stonington, starts school on Sept. 4.

Day Staff Writer Vickie Fulkerson contributed to this report.

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