Students get no break from the heat; Borough classes to be dismissed early

NAUGATUCK — In the event of another heat wave before the school year ends June 27, administrators said they will continue to dismiss schools early rather than cancel them, to ensure that no further days are added to the calendar.

Meteorologist John J. Bagioni, based in Burlington, predicted temperatures would rise late next week.

“I think there’s a chance temperatures could reach or exceed 90 degrees for one or two days,” Bagioni said.

By state law, students must spend 180 days, or 900 hours, in school every year, but the school calendars cannot end any later than June 30 or they would run into the next budget year.

The borough is cutting it closer than usual this year after using 12 snow days during the winter, administrators said. Challenged by hilly, icy streets and failing plows, the borough by early February had used more snow days than any other state municipality, and the borough’s school year is ending later than surrounding towns.

Administrators have only dismissed schools early due to heat once this year, but even if it happens again multiple times, they will meet the 900-hour requirement because school days are six and a half hours long compared to the minimum of five hours, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Brigitte Crispino said.

The borough has never canceled schools for a whole day due to heat, Crispino said.

“It’s never really come up for discussion,” she said. “The heat has never been so bad that we can’t educate students.”

On days like last Thursday, when temperatures neared 90 degrees, schools can get by if they dismiss before the hottest part of the day. Some schools move classes to libraries or cooler rooms, Crispino said. Third-floor classes in Salem School, for example, are moved to lower floors on hot days.

Of the borough’s 11 school buildings, only City Hill Middle School and parts of Naugatuck High School are air-conditioned, Crispino said.

Some parents and Board of Education members last winter proposed holding school during the weeklong breaks in February and April so the year would not end in late June, when they said heat would be a problem. School was scheduled to end last Thursday, before the snow days were added.

The board decided not to shorten or cancel either break because school district employees and students had already planned vacations. Union leaders and board members agreed that those people should not be penalized for their absence if the breaks were canceled.

Next year’s school calendar, however, stipulates that February vacation will be reduced by three days if five snow days are used before Feb. 10.