CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-Team has obtained dozens of pages of internal emails revealing the hidden debate about whether or not to close Cleveland Schools due to the current heatwave.
In fact, as far back as Sunday, some teachers at Collinwood High filed a grievance predicting keeping the schools open could mean trouble. By Monday afternoon, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District had closed a handful of schools early.
By Tuesday, 18 schools never opened, and some schools were closed Wednesday too.
In that Sunday grievance, union leaders wrote, “We have already had staff and a student pass out due to heat the first week of school.”
The district did not close any schools as a result of that complaint. But 4 a.m. Monday morning, the district’s CEO sent out his own warning to school leaders telling them to be on guard for issues with the heat. Eric Gordon wrote about knowing the “…difference between uncomfortable and dangerous…”
By 10 a.m., an administrator had written about schools with no air conditioning and what was happening with air conditioning repairs.
But by 1:30, a teacher at Newton D. Baker School wrote the “real” temperature in her class was 95 degrees with a heat index of 113.
By mid-afternoon, parents at a few schools got texts and recorded messages saying their children were being sent home early due to the heat.
More emails show in the next few hours, the district CEO had already begun investigating “…difficult decisions…” for the next day concerning which schools to open and which to keep closed.
This heatwave was certainly no surprise. The I-Team wanted to talk on camera to the top man for Cleveland Schools. A spokesperson said no. He wouldn't be doing that.
The district says on its website you can find factors for weather decisions: temperature, humidity, air conditioning, and more. Not easy decisions for school administrators.
Not easy for families, either, when they have to react in the middle of the day to a school closing.
Jowan Smith said, "Since we get the forecast early, let’s, kind of, anticipate early what might be an issue where the students might not be able to receive that education."
The teacher’s union president agrees the calls about opening and closing are difficult for administrators. He adds it's common to seem them visiting buildings to see for themselves what the conditions actually are. And there’s no specific high or low temperature in the union contract that requires the district to close schools.
We also requested emails from the Massillon School District since some schools also closed there due to heat. But that school district has not responded to our requests.