About: When it comes to having others edit my work, I like to think that I am pretty good at taking criticism. I recognize that my work is never perfect and I am always looking for ways to improve. The article below is about the heat in mid August and my school's switch to a start date an earlier start date. MY biggest difficulty was finding a way to create human interest in a factual policy piece. The main edits included organizing my information in a more coherent way and adding a feature-style lede. Below are two copies of my article, before and after edits.
With first semester in full swing, the last thing that most student’s are thinking about is the beginning of next school year. However, students will see significant changes in the upcoming school calendar, with an 11 day earlier start date and finals before winter break. With 36% of classrooms without air conditioning and studies showing lower student performance with an increase in heat, this calls into question how the school will deal with more hot full attendance days this upcoming year.
Jisung Park, a PHD student at Harvard University, conducted a study on how the heat of the test day affected New York City high school students’ performances on their school exit exams. The study concluded that students that took the exam on a 90 degree day scored on average 4.5% lower than students who took the test on a 72 degree day.
[talk about heat index for the first month and a half]
[quote from Mrs Graham about teacher union perspective on calendar, high temps and a/c]
According to associate principal Dr. Sorensen, additional large floor fans have been purchased to help circulate air from the air conditioned areas throughout the school on these hotter days. The school also plans to open dampers at night to allow cool air in while shutting the dampers during the day to keep the cool air inside.
“wW close windows during the day when the outside air tends to get warmer and try to reduce the greenhouse effect in rooms that have windows and all of that,” Sorensen said. “So [we are] trying to do the best we can with circulating air and bringing in cooler air at night and closing windows during the day. That’s kind of what we can do with what we have right now.”
5 out of the 6 other schools in the West Suburban Silver Conference have between ___% and 100% of classrooms air conditioned. DGN and DGS have 63% and 41% of the classrooms air conditioned respectively. All six of these other schools have similar start dates, with finals before winter break.
Nihal Isaac, mother of freshman Noah Isaac and senior Jade Isaac, spoke at the District 99 School Board meeting last year on Feb. 1 in favor of the new 2017-2018 calendar.
“I thought it was very important for students to have a mental break during the two weeks of winter break to decompress and recharge,” Isaac said. “We have had hotter days than [those in August] in September. Weather is unpredictable, yet the benefits to our students of having an early start calendar are very predictable and tangible.”
When Nihal Isaac, mother of freshman Noah Isaac and senior Jade Isaac, spoke at the District 99 School Board meeting last year on Feb. 1, she had one goal: relieve her daughter’s winter break stress by moving final exams before break.
“Over the past three years, I have witnessed firsthand what having the semester end after winter break does to students,” Isaac said in an Omega interview. “My daughter, Jade, spends anywhere from one-half to two-thirds of her winter break completing study guide packets for her classes in preparation for finals … Rather than enjoy herself, Jade would be stressed about the things she would need to complete before school was back in session.”
District 99’s calendar committee began work last December to create an early start calendar for this upcoming school year. The district surveyed faculty, parents and students about the calendar and drew from data of similar school districts to reach a final decision. The result led to a five day earlier 2017-2018 calendar that bumps finals before break and cuts the school stress out of the holiday season.
However, less days in the generally mild temperatures of early June mean more days in the heat of August. Only 51% of D99 classrooms have air conditioning.
A recent Harvard study suggests that student performance lowers with the increase of heat, raising concerns of how heat will impact student performance and school function during first months of school.
The study, conducted by Harvard University PHD student Jisung Park, concluded that students who took the exam on a 90-degree day scored on average 4.5% lower than students who took the test on a 72-degree day. Also, the results brought light to the fact that students that forewent only five additional 80-degree days saw a reduced performance of seven percent of a standard deviation.
According to the website Weather Underground, this past August and September, 50% of the days hit heat indexes of 80 degrees or higher, with the average at 82.5 degrees. This means that if students had started on Aug 18. this year, as is scheduled for last year, 22 out of the 44 days from then until the end of September would have been hot enough to decrease student performance.
The Master Facility Plan, a facility improvement plan for District 99 schools, involves complete air conditioning for both DGN and DGS for total of $5 million. However, the district has yet to choose a finalized plan or a set year for the improvements to take place. According to assistant principal Ken Sorensen, for the time being, the school will use fans and ventilation to cool the building.
“We have this year purchased a large number of the large floor fans. Without air conditioning, what you want to try and do is circulate air. So obviously we have a part of the building that is air conditioned and and a part of the building that is not air conditioned and heat rises so we want to circulate some of the cooler air from the air conditioned [section] of the building to the air conditioned area,” Sorensen said.
According to principal Janice Schwarze, heat factored into the calendar decision and the district considered data from other districts who switched to early start calendars without air conditioning.
“Really in the end what we found was that there were few concerns, the heat being one of them, but that other schools had managed to overcome them and were happy that they did. Other schools have been on an early start calendar and not all of them had air conditioning. I would have thought that they did, but when we were talking to the schools that was not the case. Now some of them have them now, but they didn’t when they started. That’s kind of our plan, to fully air condition both schools, they just won’t be for this August,” Schwarze said.
Teachers’ union vice president Lois Graham questions how the lack of air conditioning will affect the school with the earlier start date.
“It’s just unacceptable for students and it's unacceptable for faculty and staff ... The last 14 months were the warmest 14 months on record and that’s not going to change any time soon. Almost all the other schools in the area have air conditioning and considering this is a district with only two buildings, [the district needs to] find a way to take care of it,” Graham said.
Junior Evie Bridal believes that, while the finals after break are acceptable, the heat is not regardless.
“On hot days, it’s hard for me to stay concentrated on my work when I keep sticking to my desk. I feel really gross and distracted,” Brindl said.
Schwarze, along with multiple other faculty and staff, were part of a calendar committee that reviewed data and multiple versions of the schedule before coming to a final draft.
“This was a conversation that occurred with a lot of people over a long period of time,” principal Janice Schwarze said. “While students might be uncomfortable for those few days, the tradeoff of having those two weeks where they are not having to worry, we felt, was worth the trade off. Sometimes, you have to give up one thing to get something else.”
In preparation for the board meeting last February, Isaac researched for information regarding the heat during mid August. She considered this information in her argument to the board.
“I thought it was very important for students to have a mental break during the two weeks of winter break to decompress and recharge,” Isaac said. “... We have had hotter days than [those in August] in September. Weather is unpredictable, yet the benefits to our students of having an early start calendar are very predictable and tangible.”