Heat forces Long Beach Unified School District schools to close early

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The Long Beach Unified School District dismissed its 76,000 students an hour early Thursday and Friday due to high heat in classrooms.

"It's like 1,000 degrees in there," said Barton Elementary School second-grader Myra Perry. She became physically sick after lunch.

By mid-afternoon Friday, it was 99 in Long Beach, the same as the temperature in Death Valley, which calls itself the hottest place on the planet.

A district spokeswoman says 70 percent of its 84 schools don't have air conditioning.

"It can get well over 90 degrees when temperatures are like they are today," said Chris Eftychiou, spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District. "Obviously, it's not the most conducive environment to teaching and learning."

Teachers leave windows open, prop doors, keep kids off the playground, and on hot days, dismiss students an hour earlier than usual - anything to try and provide some relief from the heat.

The district has picked 12 schools, including Barton Elementary School, to test some cooling measures.

"Part of the pilot program is to receive some ceiling fans, a swamp cooler, window tinting," said Barton Elementary School Principal Richard Littlejohn.

But some parents say those are just a temporary fix for a problem that's heating up. Many want air conditioning put in, but the Long Beach Unified School District says that's a very expensive solution.

"That means it would take about $200 million to air condition all of our facilities," Eftychiou said. "Given our current resources, that's not something that's going to happen in the immediate future."

The district says it will likely take a ballot measure to raise that kind of money, and that could be a lengthy process.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.




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