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Published on November 14th, 2017 | by Giulia Trevellin

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October Heat Wave

On Oct. 24, Samo students were excused by the district to leave school early, due to the record-breaking heat wave taking place in Santa Monica, when temperatures rose to over 101 degrees. In addition, on Oct. 25, the school day was shortened for all 11,000 SMMUSD students.

While many students were ecstatic that their school day was shortened due to extreme heat, the actions taken by the district during the week of Oct. 22 certainly raised some questions about whether there are any official protocols in place for when such major heat waves occur.

As a matter of fact, Dr. Antonio Shelton confirmed that SMMUSD doesn’t have any set protocols for when the heat rises to over a certain temperature because the heat isn’t normally an issue in Santa Monica. However, while there are no heat protocols set in stone, the district does allocate time into the school year so that students can be released early if the heat starts to become dangerous to their health.

“Usually it’s never that hot here, so the school district shared with principals that we have to build in time in the school calendar so that we can have a minimum day if we have an excess of heat. There’s no official procedure for heat, but what the district did was create a schedule that would facilitate the release of students,” Shelton said.

Although the heat wave seems to have died down, it is still highly unusual for Santa Monica to experience such intense heat when the city is located so close to the ocean. While there are many speculations for why this heat wave occurred, according to researchers from National Climate Assessment, the significant increase in temperature is most closely linked to climate change. Like other extreme weather events, these scientists can’t concretely say that climate change caused this specific heat wave, but they have concluded that climate change has made heat waves much more likely to occur.

As the probability of heat waves increase in Santa Monica, the district is taking action to make sure that the heat won’t ever be a danger to its students and faculty. At Samo, the main reason students needed to be evacuated was because some buildings didn’t have air conditioning, so students and teachers were practically melting in the stuffy and humid classrooms. Therefore, the district is installing air conditioning throughout the majority of campus, so that most classrooms will be cool, even in extreme heat.

“While the ground is open and the workers are doing the construction of the other buildings, it is easier for them to install the air conditioning. They are going to make sure Language is upgraded and that the Administration Building has cool air, but they are not going to upgrade the History Building because the History Building is going to be torn down once the other two buildings are completed. It would be a waste of money to put air conditioning into a building for three years, and then tear it down,” Shelton said.

Overall, because of a lack of official heat wave procedures, SMMUSD wasn’t as prepared as possible for the extreme heat wave that recently occurred. Therefore, if heat waves are to become more frequent in Santa Monica, the district is going to have to set some official protocols for schools to follow, so students, parents and faculty aren’t taken by surprise quite as much as they were during the week of Oct. 22.

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