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Dangerous heat pushes St. Louis-area schools to close buildings and dismiss early

An out of focus, silhouetted figure is seen through a pane of glass, which is covered in little droplets of water and condensation.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
A student leaves Parkway North High School on Monday as water condenses onto the building's windows due to high heat and humidity in unincorporated north St. Louis County school.

For the fifth day in a row, the St. Louis region is experiencing dangerous heat that is near record-breaking levels. It’s also the first week of school for many students in the region.

The buildup of heat and humidity is putting a huge strain on air conditioning efforts in schools and forcing school leaders to make changes for students, including closing some schools, consolidating others and dismissing early.

'St. Louis on the Air': STLPR reporter Kate Grumke talks about this story

Most school buses in the region are not air conditioned, which has led to dangerous conditions for drivers and students. Missouri Central School Bus had to call Emergency Medical Services for at least four drivers this week who were overheated. The company provides bus services for St. Louis Public Schools, the Ladue and University City districts and Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corp., commonly known as the desegregation program.

Regional Operations Manager Scott Allen said none of the overheated drivers was taken to a hospital and all are doing OK now. The company is providing water on all routes, and schools are open for drivers to take breaks.

Many local districts have had to reschedule sports practices and competitions. State guidelines on sports and heat have forced many practices to be held early in the morning or indoors. Many schools are holding indoor recess to keep kids safe.

Below is a list of districts and schools that have had to make changes to schedules due to the heat.

St. Louis Public Schools

Two SLPS schools lost power this week, forcing students to move to other buildings. On Monday, the first day of school, Busch Middle School was without power, and students went to Nottingham CAJT High School. On Thursday, Pierre Laclede Elementary also lost power, and students were transported to Stevens, a recently refurbished district building.

SLPS is warning parents of potential bus delays of 30 minutes to two hours. In a letter to parents, the district said that several bus drivers were adversely affected by heat and that absences were expected on Thursday and Friday.

Granite City School District

Granite City High School switched Wednesday to virtual school for the rest of the week. The school is installing a new air conditioning system at the end of September, but the old one was not properly cooling the building during the dangerous heat wave. The district is still providing breakfast and lunch for students who need it.

Clayton School District

Wydown Middle School experienced a partial power outage on Wednesday that affected the air conditioning system. In response, the district dismissed students early.

Wentzville School District

Holt High School students are being released at noon Thursday because of high temperatures in the building.

Lincoln County School District

Schools are on an early release schedule on Thursday and Friday due to the ongoing heat and humidity.

Francis Howell School District

All middle and high schools in the Francis Howell School District are dismissing early on Thursday and Friday.

Pickneyville Community High School District

Pickneyville High School implemented an early dismissal schedule on Wednesday that is in effect until Friday.

Belleville Township High School District

Belleville West High School is also releasing early due to heat on Thursday and Friday.

The Belleville News Democrat, a St. Louis Public Radio news partner, contributed to this report.

Kate Grumke covers the environment, climate and agriculture for St. Louis Public Radio and Harvest Public Media.