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As Heat Closes Ohio Schools, Lawmakers Debate What to Do

photo of classroom
Some proposals include going back to school after Labor Day, placing AC in schools or making up lost days at the end of the year.

Some schools throughout Ohio were closed Wednesday due to heat. And state lawmakers are considering ideas to help students beat the heat.

Before air conditioning became common, many K-12 students went back to school after Labor Day. There are bills in the Ohio House and Senate to allow or mandate districts to do that. 

But with districts shutting schools because of extreme heat, Republican Representative Niraj Antani had another idea. He sent a letter to the state school superintendent, asking him for a list of all school buildings without AC and a cost estimate for installing it in those buildings. And while he’s a conservative who likes local control for schools, Antani said the state needs to make that happen.

“In this past capital bill, we put $650 million through the School Facilities Commission which was going to fund projects in 49 districts and create 40 new schools," he said. "I think before we build one more new school in Ohio, we need to ensure that every other school is up to grade.”

Republican House Education Committee chair Andy Brenner said it’s up to local communities to decide whether they want to provide air conditioning for their schools. And if they don’t want to do that, he said they could delay start dates or make up lost days at the end of the year.

“Schools are allowed snow days and schools are closed many times in Northern Ohio for a couple of weeks out of the year but they make up the time. Same things can happen here,” he said.

As for bills that would push the start date for schools back to after Labor Day, Brenner said the challenge would be with the standardized testing schedule.

Educators who have testified against those plans said they would create homework for students over the winter break instead of allowing them to take up new courses in January.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.