LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Students throughout the Midwest are getting out of school early this week because of sweltering conditions and a lack of air conditioning in some classrooms.
Schools in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Illinois planned to release children in the early afternoon, before temperatures reached expected highs — nearly 100 degrees in much of the central United States.
Administrators in several states said they were letting school out early because of safety concerns for students and teachers. Many buildings have air conditioning, but the systems don't always cover older sections that haven't been renovated.
In central Iowa, Marshalltown Community School District administrators canceled their afternoon preschool classes on Monday and Tuesday and were planning to release other students two hours early to avoid the worst heat. Parts of all 10 of district buildings have air conditioning, but some rooms aren't connected.
"The buildings can heat up pretty fast, especially when you have kids in there," district spokesman Jason Staker said. "It's not a good environment for students or teachers."
The prolonged heat surge of this magnitude is unusual for this time of year, but not unprecedented, according to the National Weather Service. In Des Moines, for instance, temperatures on Aug. 26 have reached at least 100 degrees at least six times since 1881.
School administrators in the western Nebraska town of Alliance decided to send students home early after local forecasters predicted temperatures in excess of 90 degrees. Some classes in the 1,600-student district are held on the third floor, and temperatures rise when students fill the room.
"Those rooms get extremely warm, especially on the higher levels," superintendent Troy Unzicker said. "It can get uncomfortable even when the temperatures are in the upper 80s."
Students in Minneapolis were attending school as scheduled, but administrators canceled after-school activities and distributed 750 cases of water to schools. Officials also sent industrial fans to the 18 buildings that lack air conditioning, district spokeswoman Rachel Hicks said. Parents were advised to dress their kids in light clothing, while staffers are watching for any symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
Associated Press writer Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.