Archive for Thursday, September 12, 1991


September 12, 1991


Several local parents were hot Wednesday, but not because of high temperatures.

Some parents with children in the Lawrence school district were upset that district officials waited until mid-morning Wednesday to announce early class dismissal for Wednesday afternoon.

Classes were dismissed two hours early because temperatures forecast Wednesday morning were well above what had been predicted earlier in the week. The high Wednesday was 92.

Still, said Kerry Altenbernd, parent of a Cordley Elementary School student, it would have been better for district officials "to decide on the shortened schedule the night before, or to just stick out the heat."

He said that providing parents such short notice that their children would be let out early was "a very asinine thing."

Although classes ended early, school buses ran on their normal schedules Wednesday, and schools provided adult supervision for students who had to wait for the buses.

AT MANY elementary schools, students who usually walk home were allowed to leave early if school staff had confirmed that a parent or guardian was at home. Elementary students who usually ride the bus were allowed to call parents to arrange rides home.

Cindy Denny, who has a child at Hillcrest Elementary School, said she and her husband run a business out of both a Johnson County office and a home office. Denny said she was "lucky" to have been home when Hillcrest staff called.

When she arrived at Hillcrest, Denny said, "It was very chaotic. I had kids I know say, `Can you take me home?' They could have just kept everybody in school so they wouldn't have this confusion."

"I also don't think it's a teacher's job to have to spend an hour and a half calling every parent."

Denny added that "it's not the type of society now where every mom is home."

SHAREN STEELE, principal at New York Elementary School, said only the New York students in grades three and under were required to confirm that a parent was home before being allowed to walk home early. Students in grades four through six were allowed to walk home regardless of whether a parent was home.

"A lot of times their parents aren't home on a regular day," Steele said. "We've got a lot of `latchkey' kids over here."

Although the district's central office received a barrage of calls related to the early dismissal, not all of the calls were negative, said Bonnie Dunham, the district's communications coordinator.

"We also got some calls thanking us," Dunham said. "One teacher had had a student throw up two days in a row" because of the heat.

Dunham said the district does not have a policy about the time officials must announce school closings. She said the district simply tries to make the announcements "as soon as possible."

Kathy Carlsen teaches science on the third floor of Central Junior High School, which has only a few air-conditioned classrooms. Carlsen said that when she arrived at the school Wednesday morning, her classroom was already 90 degrees.

"THE BUILDING, because it's brick, holds heat overnight. It gets toasty," she said.

Carlsen, too, said it was somewhat hectic arranging for the students to leave. However, she said, considering the heat, "It was the best decision."

Central Principal Dan Jaimes said students who walk to school were allowed to walk home early. Bus riders who couldn't arrange another way home remained in a supervised study hall in the school's air-conditioned library.

Lawrence School Supt. Dan Neuenswander said a change in weather forecasts was what prompted the rather sudden decision to dismiss classes early.

Although the National Weather Bureau was predicting the week's temperatures to drop after a rain Tuesday night, temperatures did not drop as much as expected, Neuenswander said. When he called the bureau Wednesday morning, the previous forecast of highs in the mid-80s for the rest of the week had given way to a forecast for higher temperatures.

NEUENSWANDER said that after hearing from teachers about some heat-related problems, it was decided to go to a shortened schedule Wednesday through Friday.

He said that although he regretted the short notice for parents, "to say that we will never have to do that again would not be a smart thing."

For instance, he said, if a massive snowfall were to begin at mid-morning some school day this winter, students might have to be let out early.

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