- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Students in dozens of area schools without air conditioning tried to keep their minds on their work as the temperature soared to a record 92 degrees yesterday, many of them without even the breeze from a fan for relief.
Those schools that had fans used them, and some moved children into cooler areas in the buildings. But administrators said they could only do so much, given the unseasonably oppressive heat and overcrowded classrooms.
At Stanton Elementary School in Southeast, students were taking the Stanford 9 tests along with children in all city schools. Teacher Sandra Pone endured the afternoon with her fifth-grade class on the sweltering third floor of the 52-two-year-old building.
Only 25 percent of the building's rooms are air-conditioned. While the administrative offices have window units, most of the school's 30 classrooms don't.
The heat was so bad, students took the tests by the light from the windows the overhead fluorescents were turned off to make it cooler.
"Of all the weeks for us to take the tests, this was not a good one," Miss Pone said.
Students sat at their desks with books open, sweating out the last 15 minutes before the bell rang. Some fanned themselves with hats and paper.
Schools did not dismiss early yesterday and, because of the testing, are not expected to cancel classes or close early today, when temperatures are forecast to be around 90 degrees again.
The normal high for this time of year is typically 67 degrees, said Neal DiPascuale of the National Weather Service. The previous record of 91 degrees was set in 1976.
The highest temperature yesterday was recorded at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Washington Dulles International Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport also recorded record highs of 91 degress and 90 degrees, respectively.
"We are well above normal right now, but we should be cooling down for the weekend," Mr. DiPascuale said.
He said there was a possibility of rain and thunderstorms tommorow and Friday, causing a drop in temperatures.
Romeo Garcia, the District's schools facilities chief, said everyone was taken by surprise by the unexpected change in weather. He added that mechanics were out trying to help schools deal with the heat and make it as "comfortable as possible" for the children by turning on the air conditioning in the buildings that have it.
Mr. Garcia said funding for facilities was hard to get, and priority is usually given to areas like health and safety. A $2.4 billion capital improvement plan for the city's schools will address the lack of air conditioning in all schools, he said.
"Aside from the fans, there is little the schools can do," said Iris Toyer, head of Parents United for D.C. Schools, whose fourth-grader's class at Stanton had to be moved to another room because of the heat.
Students in some Prince George's County schools also worked without air conditioning. At other schools, such as Mattaponi Elementary in Upper Marlboro, there was newly installed air conditioning, thanks to fund-raising drives organized by parent-teacher associations.
At Melwood Elementary in Upper Marlboro, which is partly air-conditioned, a staffer said the system was down. "It is miserable in here," she said.
The heat wave that's hit the metropolitan Washington area has also struck other parts of the country, boosting temperatures to record highs in the 80s and even the low 90s from the Midwest to the East.
Temperatures were in the 80s yesterday as far north as the Great Lakes and southern New England, with a high of 88 possible in Philadelphia. Albany, N.Y., was already up to 73 by late morning.
The heat reached record highs Monday from eastern Colorado to Indiana, including 84 at Denver; 91 at St. Joseph, Mo.; 90 at La Crosse, Wis.; 91 at Waterloo and Mason City, Iowa; and 87 in South Bend, Ind.
In Minneapolis, the last remaining ice disappeared from the city's chain of lakes as the temperature peaked at 91, well above the previous mark of 82 that had been on the record books since 1915.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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