Lack of air conditioning continues to affect MHS

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Marshalltown High School students had a 1 p.m. early out Monday due to high heat. The heat index as they left the building was about 94 degrees and it continued to climb that afternoon. The high school’s air conditioning system doesn’t fully function, meaning high heat forces such early outs, especially early and late in the school year.

The heat index reached well into the 90s as Marshalltown students prepared for their first full week of the school year.

The heat forced the district to call a 1 p.m. early out at Marshalltown High School Monday because the building’s air conditioning system needs work, which is a familiar reason to students, staff and parents.

“There are portions of the high school that are not air-conditioned, those are the areas that we’re concerned about,” said District Communications Director Andrew Potter. “The rest of the district had a full day.”

Late August and early September often bring high-heat conditions to central Iowa. Potter said the district has averaged two or three heat-related early outs at the high school in the past two school years.

Potter said the decision to let students out early because of the heat is made by district Superintendent Theron Schutte.

“Mostly, (Schutte) monitors the conditions going on in the school at the time,” Potter said. He said the superintendent also watches the day’s reported heat index. According to Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines, Monday’s heat index, which reached into the mid-90s, would be “uncomfortable” and falls just below the mark for “may be hazardous,” which is 100 degrees.

Several other districts around the state also experience the high heat this time of year, but officials at the Waukee, Ottumwa, Mason City, West Des Moines and Newton community school districts said early outs due to heat are not an issue. Officials from all five of those districts said all of their buildings have functioning air conditioning, which prevents the need for early outs in such weather.

Local lawyer and Marshalltown Community School District Foundation member Larry McKibben spoke to the Marshalltown School Board in early June, calling for a fundraising effort to fix the air conditioning system at MHS.

“I can tell you that the foundation will help,” he said at the meeting. “I’m not bringing out anything that’s brand new to you … Marshalltown’s a community that, if we put together the right game plan, we can get the job done.”

McKibben’s comments at that meeting came in the wake of a heat-related early out at the high school in late May.

While no specific timeline has been given on such a project, district administrators, including Schutte, have said a long-range facilities plan is in the works and that the high school’s air conditioning system is among the projects on the list.

“It’s something that continues to weigh on our minds,” Potter said.

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com