On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week and Friday of the previous week, Floyd County Public Schools released students early due to concerns about the heat.

According to District Superintendent Dr. John Wheeler, “This is not uncommon for any jurisdiction that doesn’t have AC.” He said the district uses the same standard for heat-related closings as they would for snow days, natural disasters or anything else: whether the circumstances prevent students from getting to school or being at school safely.

Prior to making a decision about closing schools, the district gets reports from every school, Wheeler explained. Officials also closely observe overnight and early-morning temperatures, as well as the temperatures inside school buildings. “We do our best to cool the schools. We have large fans,” Wheeler said, but often humidity is a factor.

Floyd County students went back to school August 13, and Wheeler said this early in the school year, a few early dismissals will have no impact on curricula. “We plan for it, and teachers do a great job and kids are always resilient,” Wheeler said. Despite accounting for potential heat-related closings in its yearly schedule, Floyd County Public Schools is planning for a future when those closings may not be necessary.

The county issued bid requests for air conditioning and HVAC control systems on Aug. 18, according to County Administrator Terri Morris. Bids are due by Sept. 19 at 2 p.m., and then will be reviewed by county officials, who will issue a recommendation on construction to the Board of Supervisors. Morris said she hopes to have that recommendation ready for the Sept. 23 meeting of the board.

The school system previously conducted a feasibility study led by Thompson & Litton, Wheeler said, and through that process “found the best way to air condition the buildings.” The county has appropriated $6.5 million for the needed improvements. Wheeler said that “everything’s moving at the right pace,” and the district hopes to have all spaces air conditioned by 2021.

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