The Ottumwa Courier

August 27, 2013

What about the children?

By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — While some southeast Iowa districts have been canceling school due to dangerous heat, others, like Ottumwa, go on teaching in an air-conditioned environment. But even in Ottumwa, educators have been paying closer attention to the temperature.

At two schools in the district, principals said during the heat advisory, gym class has been inside.

"Our building is well cooled [as a result of] our chiller system, including our gymnasium,"said Dawn Sievertsen, one of two principals at the newest Ottumwa school building, Liberty Elementary School.

She said staff have been very aware of the temperature and the impact it might have on children.

"Our teachers allow students to have their water bottles ... even when they're at their desks," Sievertsen said.

As for the two short recess periods that offer youngsters exercise and a chance to burn off excess energy, there have been differing approaches to the heat.

Principal Jay Green at James Elementary School said especially around outdoor recess, kids are encouraged to drink water.

"We have been having outdoor recess normally," he said. "It's such a short period of time, and we make sure they get plenty of hydration."

At Liberty, all students are allowed to go outside for the after-lunch recess, which is between 10 and 15 minutes in duration.

"We know they'll be coming back into a nice, cool building," Sievertsen said.

But the morning or afternoon 10-minute recess has seen teachers checking before letting the little ones outside.

"Some teachers have been opting for recess inside their rooms," said Sievertsen, "especially later in the afternoon when it's hottest."

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark