St. Louis Public Schools

St. Louis Public Schools new Superintendent Dr. Keisha Scarlett visited Yeatman early Monday morning Aug. 21, 2023 on the first day of school.

Dr. Keisha Scarlett, St. Louis Public Schools superintendent, was greeted with a first day of school challenge she rarely if ever faced as a Seattle Schools administrator for 24 years.

A temperature in the mid-90s, paired with intense humidity, created a heat index of over 114 degrees throughout the St. Louis area on Monday, August 21 – SLPS’ first day of classes. A National Weather Service heat warning continued through the week and was not expected to expire until Friday evening.

The torrid weather did not stop Scarlett from visiting several schools, and greeting students, faculty and staff with smiles and encouragement.

In preparation for Monday’s and the continuing heat indices over 110 degrees, SLPS took the following actions:

• Air conditioning began running 24/7 over the weekend make sure all buildings are pre-cooled.

• Outdoor activities at all schools are limited throughout the week.

• Athletic events and practices are impacted, with some being rescheduled to early mornings

or late evenings. 

• Extra bottled water is being brought in to all SLPS buildings.

In an interview with KSDK at Clyde C. Miller Academy, Scarlett said teachers “want support in mental health, to make sure they’re staying above the line so that they can really give to students as well.

“Also, career advancement opportunities and ways they’ll be able to be retained within the organization.” 

Scarlett said an important part of school safety and children feeling safe is “having adults who care for them, and are connected with them, who know them by their name, their story and their need is very important. That’s the first step to making sure we have safe schools.”

 “The safety issues we have in the city are citywide issues. The school district plays their part. We’re looking forward to working with [Mayor Tishaura Jones] and the rest of our city leaders and having safe spaces for students even after school will be important as well.”

“We will do indoor recess through the duration of the heat advisories, especially given how hot and also how humid it is outside,” said Nance Elementary Principal Tyler Archer.

“Within our schools, we often have kids with severe asthma and other medical conditions. Knowing who those kids are, monitoring to make sure that teachers know [and] bus drivers know [is] how to keep those kids safe, and to know signs of if a child is in distress.”

Another unforeseen circumstance occurred at Busch Middle School when a tree limb fell and snapped a power line.

The students were moved to nearby Nottingham Community Access and Job Training High School for the day. 

“Once attendance was taken first period [and] the lights weren't back on, we went ahead and bussed them all over to Nottingham High School," SLPS Spokesperson George Sells said.

Students were transferred by 9 a.m. and parents got notified by phone, email, or social media.

As the week opened, Sells said anyone who can transport their child to or from school might want to consider that option on the hottest days.

SLPS Missouri Central School Bus Company is encouraging students to bring water bottles on the bus each day for hydration, drivers are being instructed to pay careful attention for any signs of heat-related distress, and coolers of water and ice containing microfiber towels will be on all emergency/safety vehicles.

“We are doing everything we can to mitigate any complications the extreme heat will cause,” said Scott Allen, MCSB regional operations manager.

“We are on full alert and are asking parents to make sure their children have full water bottles to keep them hydrated.”

KSDK and St. Louis Public Radio contributed to this report.

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