The Newark school district is open during an extreme heat warning

NEWARK, NJ (PIX11) — New Jersey’s largest city issued an excessive heat warning late Tuesday afternoon, which will last through Thursday of this week. The warning was issued at the same hour the children were removed from their first day of school in Newark. Now, the district is trying to balance cooling students — even in some schools without air conditioning — with a variety of other challenges.

At the Newark Public Schools’ downtown headquarters, staff, administrators, and some teachers wore T-shirts that said “A Brand New Day” on the first day of school. However, most of the schools in the state’s largest public school district are by no means new, Superintendent Roger Lyon noted in an interview.


“Some of our buildings were erected as late as 10 years before Lincoln became President of the United States,” said the superintendent. This is Lafayette Street School.

The school, named after the street on which it is located, in the city’s Ironbound neighborhood, was in bright sunshine on a Tuesday when the Newark temperature was over 90 degrees Celsius. The curtains were drawn in each classroom, and all the windows were open.

Matias Bosquez Ceballos had just emerged from his class in the fourth grade, beads of sweat streaming down his face.

He described himself as “a little too hot” for leaving school early to get a date. He added, “I’m fine.”

Superintendent Lyon was also a student in the Newark Public Schools as a child. Lyon, 54, said he attended Hawkins Street Primary School.

“Today we have air conditioners in the windows” at the school, he said. “When I was in school, there were no air conditioners at all.”

Most of the schools in this city, which serve about 40,000 students, are equipped with air conditioning. However, even in a place like Louise Spencer Primary School, in the central wing, where the window air-conditioning units are located, the cooling levels can be uneven.

This is what Bianca Johnson, the parent of Spencer Elementary School, said her children told her.

Instead, Johnson said she preferred her children’s school buildings, as well as all other buildings around town, to have state-of-the-art cooling systems.

“They need to invest in central air,” she said. “I know it’s an old building, but central air would be so much better.”

That may be easier said than done in an area with the largest financial inequality in the state, according to an analysis by Walthobe.

Although Newark last year boosted its average attendance rate to more than 94%, its graduation rate to more than 81%, and lowered its chronic absenteeism rate to 18% — the lowest level in decades — its managers said they faced challenges trying to Maintain or improve those challenges. The superintendent said keeping schools cool is part of a variety of challenges the district is facing simultaneously.

“We’re watching these things very carefully, whether it’s very hot or very cold, to make sure the kids and staff are safe,” Leon said in an interview.

Parents who spoke with PIX11 News said the school district is generally doing its best amid the excessive heat warning issued by Newark City Hall.

However, “I’m a little nervous,” said Carlos Alvarez, a parent at Spencer Elementary School.

Judge Lee, the aunt and carer of two students at the school, expressed concern about children at some of the other schools in Newark, which do not have air conditioning. “I actually feel bad,” she said. “They need air conditioners.”

Superintendent Lyon said schools and after-school programs will continue normally this week, despite the sweltering conditions. The Newark Teachers Union did not respond to a request for comment.

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