Aug 14, 2023 - Climate

Austin-area schools adapt to the heat wave

Illustration of a melting apple.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Summer break is over for Austin-area school districts, but the heat just won't go away.

  • The persistent triple-digit days are forcing school districts across the state to adjust how much time their students spend outdoors.

Why it matters: Heat waves affect children more severely than adults because their bodies aren't as able to regulate temperature, and they rely on adults to protect them from overheating, per Scientific American.

  • And with fall sports starting up in Texas — clear eyes, full hearts — students and spectators could be at risk.

State of play: The University Interscholastic League, the governing body for Texas high school sports, leaves heat-related adjustments to the discretion of local school leaders because of the state's size and varying climates, spokesman Logan Lawrence tells Axios.

  • In AISD, high school practices can only be a maximum of 1.5 hours with five-minute water breaks every 20 minutes when temperatures reach over 105°F or hit a heat index of 115°F. For middle school athletes, that changes to a maximum of 45 minutes in the heat with water breaks every 15 minutes.
  • If the temperature reaches over 110°F or the heat index hits 120°F, all outside activity is canceled in AISD. Camp Mabry reached a heat index record of 118°F in June.

Of note: Austin's Camp Mabry hit seven consecutive days of temperatures over 105°F Thursday. The record — 11 — was set just last month, according to National Weather Service forecasters.

What's happening: To beat the heat, Austin-area schools have shifted recess to mornings, increased water breaks and some have even moved practice indoors.

  • Crockett High School football practice starts at 5:30pm in an air-conditioned gym for the first hour before students head to an outside field, and LBJ High School moved after-school practice to the evenings.
  • Round Rock ISD partnered with Ascension to bring certified athletic trainers and sports medicine doctors to monitor students, according to CBS Austin.
  • At Hays Consolidated ISD, shaded areas have been added at every elementary school, and football and marching band practice starts in the early morning, according to district spokesperson Tim Savoy.

💭 Axios climate reporter Andrew Freedman's thought bubble: The thing that's different this year is the duration of the heat and the frequently high humidity, which is particularly dangerous since it raises heat indices and makes it harder for the body to cool itself.


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