Heat ends 1st day of MPS classes early, experts warn it could happen again

NOW: Heat ends 1st day of MPS classes early, experts warn it could happen again

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- We've all heard of snow days in Wisconsin, but now the heat is impacting learning for students at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).

The district announced Monday that schools would dismiss early on Tuesday due to extreme heat. All MPS after-school, recreation and athletic programs were cancelled as well.

"When I went to school, I mean I'm 40 now so, we didn't close school. Like, you just went to school and you suffered. I wouldn't even call it suffering because it's not that hot today," said Elgin Harris, picking his son up from Neeskara School. "I get it, though. They're looking out for the welfare of the kids."

The decision, while made a day earlier, still put some parents in a tricky situation regarding childcare and work.

"Luckily, (I) happened to be off today," said Shanecqua Tucker, who was also picking up her son from Neeskara School. "Just happy I was able to see him and be here for his first day. A lot of parents don't have that opportunity so it just creates a little bit of bind for them to get them."

"It definitely throws a mix that you're not ready for," Harris added. "You got to find childcare or you have to leave work early or call your job and tell them you're going to be late."

This is the third time in the last three weeks MPS classes have been impacted by heat. On Aug. 23 and 24, early start classes were cancelled.

Dr. Ilissa Ocko, Senior Climate Scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, says these types of heat days may become more common in the future.

"As long as we keep burning fossil fuels and doing other activities that omit greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, we just expect temperatures to keep climbing," Dr. Ocko said. "We expect these types of extreme events, whether it's extreme heat or it's heavy downpours or wildfires, drought conditions, to just keep getting worse, more frequent, last longer, all of those sorts of things."

Dr. Ocko says regions of the nation, the Midwest in particular, not used to being impacted by extreme heat should start to prepare.

"In northern parts of the United States, we are very much vulnerable to blizzards and extreme cold and we focus a lot of our efforts on snow days and how to handle, you know, a lot of snow falling in a short period of time and we're not as focused on extreme heat because it's not something that we have to deal with that much," Dr. Ocko explained. "That's what makes these northern cities, like Milwaukee, even more vulnerable to extreme heat. These cities, these communities are built on conditions that are no longer the same, they are changing."

As previously reported by CBS 58, 44% of MPS schools are without working air conditioning. Harris says more needs to be done to make sure the schools are prepared to have class when the weather is hot.

"Definitely. I came to open house a week ago and they had no AC on and we're just walking through the school and it's like hot, it's muggy, it's steamy," Harris said. "They definitely need to throw some funding into the schools to give them better accommodations so we don't have to do this."

CBS 58 reached out to MPS to ask what the criteria is to cancel classes for heat and to see if there are any steps in place to add air conditioning or other cooling mechanisms to the schools that do not have working air conditioning. The district did not provide a response to those questions.

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