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Josephinum Academy Closes Early Due to 'High Heat Index'

By Erica Demarest | August 27, 2013 12:47pm
  Josephinum Academy, 1507 N. Oakley Blvd., closed early due to heat Tuesday.   The all-girls Catholic high school isn't wired for air conditioning, school officials said.
Josephinum Academy
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WICKER PARK — If you can't stand the heat, get out of the classroom.

At least that's how one Wicker Park high school is handling this week's near-record heat wave.

Josephinum Academy, an all-girls Catholic school at 1501 N. Oakley Blvd., closed early on Tuesday — dismissing students at noon due to a "high heat index."

“I just feel for the students," Principal Lourdes Weber said. "They really are doing a great job ... but after a certain point, they can’t learn."

The early dismissal was announced about 2 p.m. Monday after school officials conducted a walk-through of the four-story building, said Scott Benke, dean of students.

"You can feel the temperature rise as you go up to the fourth floor," Benke said.

With the exception of a few classrooms used for summer school, Josephinum Academy doesn't have air conditioning.

The building's current electrical system can't handle schoolwide AC, Benke said, and rewiring the building could cost six figures.

"It'd be a pretty big overhaul," Benke said, "and it only gets really hot a few days a year."

After school on Tuesday, senior Brianna Garcia, 17, said she was happy to be out of the building.

“Every other word was ‘it’s hot,'" Garcia said of her second day back to school. "All you see is people waving their folders."

“Everyone was trying to crowd around the fans," added Aisha Broaster, an 18-year-old senior who plays varsity volleyball with Garcia.

The teens planned to head home and "get some air conditioning" before returning for a 5:30 p.m. game, Garcia said.

When asked whether Josephinum Academy would close early again this week, Weber quipped: "We hope not."

Becky Carroll, a CPS spokeswoman, said the city had no plans to close public schools early.

Most public schools have air conditioning, Carroll said, and 800 fans have been made available to those that don't.

Teachers in Chicago public schools plan to turn off overhead lights, draw shades to keep out sunlight, offer frequent water breaks and move classes, when possible, to cooler parts of buildings.