KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the extreme heat across the metro, Kansas City Public Schools is releasing its students early for the rest of the week.
Leaders said the decision wasn’t an easy one, but they believe it’s the safest and most responsible choice for students and staff.
A very impassioned Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Collier said this wasn’t a decision her district wanted to make. It shouldn’t ever come to this, she said, but she stressed infrastructure is the key issue.
Many KCPS secondary schools don’t have air conditioning in all the classrooms, and existing units are struggling to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout buildings in this heat.
Collier said classrooms were reading over 80 degrees Monday. She said if Kansas City sees these temperatures again, it’s likely schools would be forced to do early dismissal again.
The new release times this week are staggered in three tiers. Some schools like at Lincoln Middle are releasing at 10:50 a.m., others at 11:50 a.m. and lastly at 12:45 p.m.
“Threw my whole schedule off,” Lincoln Middle School parent Keith Martin said. “These little youngins’ don’t know what heat exhaustion is, like I said I’ve felt it, it’s not good.”
Martin said the half days are inconvenient, but student safety is more important.
“I was excited to not so much that she’s missing school, but the fact that they’re actually taking time to consider the students,” Lincoln Middle School parent Nicole Shields said.
“Some of these kids are walking home from the bus stop in this heat and this heat is torturous, especially for kids with asthma.”
All students will still get lunch before dismissal, and some sports teams will still have practice inside. Before-school care will still continue – but after-school care is canceled.
But it still leaves students out of class and parents scrambling.
“Who’s going to keep the kids? Who’s going to pick them up? Who’s going to keep them? Do I have enough groceries? Those are probably the first three things that went through my mind,” KCPS parent Jumesha Wade said.
Wade, a mother of five, talked to FOX4 between two separate dismissals.
“It’s not schools against parents, like we are all a team,” she said. “So I think if we could have worked together to come up with a plan, then that we have created more peace with everybody.”
Wade said she’s had to take time off work to accommodate picking her kids up in the middle of the day.
Collier said she empathizes with Wade’s situation and other parents but stressed student safety. She also honed in on funding — or the lack thereof.
“We as a city have to decide that we want to address the needs in this school district around infrastructure, deciding that we care about the kids who are here sitting in our schools today,” Collier said. “If we really care about them, then we have to say it’s time to pass a bond.”
Collier also said this decision was made in part because of the bus drivers who don’t have air conditioning. She confirmed one bus driver fell ill Monday.
The district said it will continue to update families on when it’s safe to resume the normal schedule. It’s expected the schedule will go back to normal starting next Monday.