District spends hundreds to counteract heat index, students respond

Cort Haynes, assistant principal, monitors as Johnson passes out water bottles on Aug. 19 after school. Johnson volunteered to help Haynes. Photo by A. Esser

by Austyn Esser

The heat index skyrocketed the first week of school, forcing administrators to find a way to keep students safe and hydrated while on the non-air-conditioned bus rides home. For district officials, the solution was to spend nearly $1,000 during the week of Aug. 16-19 on bottled water to distribute to students.

“This year we have had more days over 100-degrees than in the recent past years. The administration is paying more attention to the heat index and doing what we can for the safety of our students,” James Baker, Director of Operations, said.

Administration made the decision to pass out water bottles to every student that rides a bus home district wide, which began on Aug. 17 when the heat index hit 105-degrees.

In one day, building administrators went through 120 cases of water. Approximately 100 more cases were used on Thursday and Friday of that week.

Safety came before cost as USD 266 dished out $2.99 per case of 24 bottles, 12.4 cents per bottle.

Just as the expectation of administrators was to keep students safe, they had other hopes as well.

“We are always concerned about the environmental impact; our hope is that students will recycle the bottles at home. The need to keep students hydrated during extreme heat was the deciding factor in this case,” Baker said.

 

Students respond to district water bottles

 As the district dealt with the pocket burning costs of the water, students coped with the misuses in addition to the heat.

“It’s annoying because kids like to crumble them, throw them out the windows, and shoot the caps off at people,” Shelby Saunders, 9, said.

The water bottle tricks do not differ too much from bus to bus according to Kaitlyn Anderson, 12.

“On my bus they loudly pound the water bottles against the windows, but it is nice and refreshing (to have the) drink on a hot day,” Anderson said.

Despite the daily frustrations with how some students decided to use their water as opposed to drinking it, others welcomed the opportunity to hydrate while enduring the triple digit degree ride home.

“It’s nice that they give out water, it keeps you cool,” Saunders said.

The heat index has shown no sign of decreasing, which has only caused the amount of money spent on water bottles by the district to increase. Students suggested ways for the district to save money.

“I think we should have a water bottle drive where kids bring water bottles to their encor and the class that brings the most wins a pizza party or something to save the district money,” Anderson said.

Saunders thought about the years to come when she offered her idea.

“They might as well put air conditioning on the buses because they go to all of the same schools and it will save them money in the long run,” Saunders said.

The heat caused not only annoyances and budget depletion, but has also pushed students to use their creativity to suggest changes for the community.

 

Nate Johnson, 12, passes out water bottles to Kellen Filby, 10, and Johnny Phan, 11, as they walk to their buses on Aug. 19 after school. Water cases were ready to go as the students filled up the buses. Photo by A. Esser

 

Johnson hands Lonnie Ward-Scifres, 9, a water on his way to bear the intensified heat on his bus on Aug. 19 after school. Johnson stood by with another water bottle in hand for the next student that crossed his path. Photo by A. Esser