BREWER, Maine — The beach chairs, inflatable rafts and bathing suits were nowhere in sight, but Monday seemed more like summer vacation than like the first day of school.
A blazing sun, clear skies and temperatures in the low 90s greeted students attending the first day of classes from kindergarten through 12th grade in Brewer’s five public school buildings, but heat didn’t seem to be a problem for them, the teachers or the administrators.
Well, it may have made things a little hot for some administrators.
“The temperature in my office right now is 80 degrees,” Brewer School Superintendent Daniel Lee said with a chuckle around 2:30 p.m. “But it could be worse.”
On a day with a high of 92 degrees and a heat index of 91, it was a bit toasty outside for the approximately 1,670 students heading back to class.
“We haven’t had any problems with the heat. It’s still summertime and the weather’s beautiful,” Lee said. “It was pretty uneventful in a good way with few problems. Just a couple busing glitches. I think it’ll be like this for a while, until Friday anyway.”
Most public schools open this week, with Bangor opening on Wednesday. Some other area schools, including Hampden’s, start classes for kindergarten through grade nine today.
“We’ll just try to make sure the children hydrate,” SAD 22 Superintendent Richard Lyons said. “We might watch out during outdoor recess and maybe shorten them to avoid heat complications and sunburn. Our schools stay pretty cool, for the most part, as long as we reduce the direct sunlight.”
Bangor students still have one more day to enjoy the steamy weather before they have to get up early and catch the bus or hoof it to school before the bell rings.
“We’re already reminding teachers and personnel to keep students hydrated, keep lights low and the shades down to try and keep the schools as cool as we can,” said Betsy Webb, Bangor’s school superintendent. “We’re also looking for additional fans and encouraging students to wear sunscreen or avoid prolonged direct sunlight.”
Webb says that’s normal protocol, no matter what time of the year, for unseasonably hot weather.
“We’re not going to complain about the great weather, but you have to be careful,” Webb said.
Lee said most of Brewer’s beat-the-heat strategies involve common-sense practices such as keeping the shades pulled down and firing up the fans.
“And we always emphasize hydrating. It has been warm inside the buildings, but most of them [have] R25 to R30 insulation in them, and that helps keep the heat down and the buildings a bit cooler,” said Lee, who spent much of Monday visiting each of Brewer’s five schools.
“They [students] are glad to be back,” Lee said. “One girl had a dress on with long leotards and a teacher asked if she wanted to take that off with the heat, but she said she bought it for the first day of school and was going to wear it.”
The new kindergarten through 12th grade school being constructed on Parkway South already has one heat-reducing factor the other ones don’t: a white roof, which reflects heat.
Lee said that he heard hardly any heat-related complaints and that nobody said it was too hot for school.
“I haven’t heard that today, actually,” he said Monday with a laugh. “There are many times when we can get warm stretches in the fall, so this is nothing unusual. The kids are in and they’re ready to go to school.”