(KRON) — The heat wave that has blanketed the Bay Area this week has had an impact on many, but some of the most vulnerable populations braved the heat in buildings that did not have air conditioning.
Students in some Novato schools began attending half days to avoid children being out during the highest temperatures in buildings without air conditioning. Students in Dublin Unified School District are also scheduled for shortened school days this week due to the heat.
Representatives with San Francisco United School District said that although there is not a central air conditioning system for the district, even schools without air conditioning are equipped with window shades that can be closed to keep classrooms cooler. For many teachers, keeping children engaged in uncomfortably high temperatures can be a challenge.
Michele Lamons-Raiford has been an educator with the West Contra Costa Unified School District for over 20 years. She teaches American Sign Language and English and serves as a speech and debate coach.
Lamons-Raiford says that she and her students have had to relocate at times due to the high temperatures this week. She says when the temperatures rise, it’s an opportunity for educators to lean on the relationships they have built with their students.
“Whether the classroom is hot or not, if we have snacks and water for them and we are doing everything we can to keep them cool and comfortable and safe, they will be engaged,” Lamons-Raiford tells KRON4.
Lamons-Raiford says that she has always reached out to her community members when her classroom needed extra support — whether that was supplies or a donation of time. She says that her community has always filled the needs of the students for which she was advocating.
She encourages parents to get involved in their children’s education. “The more you get involved, the better it is. We are here as your teammates, as your co-educators,” Lamons-Raiford said.
Cassondra Curiel, the President of United Educators of San Francisco, has been an educator in the Bay Area for over 11 years, and she says that almost no schools within San Francisco Unified School District have enclosed air conditioning systems. Curiel noted that the changing climate of the Bay Area has a root cause. “We cannot separate the issue we are dealing with right now from global warming,” Curiel told KRON4.
Curiel says that as environmental changes occur in our area, students will pay a higher cost, “The folks that will be most negatively impacted are the most vulnerable individuals. In this case that’s our youth,” she said.
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One way that many educators have battled the latest heat wave is by ensuring that their students are well-hydrated throughout the day. Curiel tells KRON4 that across San Francisco schools, it can be difficult to keep students hydrated because of the lack of infrastructure — like having a working water fountain nearby to use.
Lamons-Raiford reached out to her community to donate supplies like water bottles and snacks, and they came through. She even shared a photo of their generosity on Facebook.
“I think sometimes people focus on the systemic issues in education, but the truth is we love kids. It’s about letting the community know that we’re all in this together,” Lamons-Raiford tells KRON4.