The extreme heat millions of people have been dealing with this summer is our new reality.
Schools are now working on new types of heat plans to prepare for what comes next.
Melissa Guardaro is part of a team at Arizona State University that partnered with public health experts and school leaders to develop HeatReady Schools.
“It is getting hotter, and we have data that shows that over time it's not only climate change, but also a lot of these schools are in urban areas," Guardaro said. "And it's the urban heat island effect that is particularly intense on these school yards, particularly ones that are paved. And in inner cities, where there's a lot of felt infrastructure and streets and concrete around them that's retaining that heat.”
The program is expanding to more school districts in Arizona.
However, Guardaro says it’s really something that could be implemented anywhere.
“Something that works, let's say in one city in Arizona might have to be changed slightly to work in other areas as well," Guardaro said. "But the important point is that everybody really needs to focus on extreme heat and the impact that it's having on the health of children.”
The program includes education around heat-related issues like identifying heat illness.
Also, policies a school can add around heat to make kids safer and changes schools can make to playgrounds like adding more trees for shade.
Jennifer Vanos with Arizona State University has seen the impact of that playground change firsthand in her with with Paideia Academies in Phoenix.
“I really think there’s massive opportunities to be creating playgrounds that are climate proof or heat proof," Vanos said. "Thinking about what’s the opportunity to create a park, a cool island here, aot a mini heat island.”
They completely redesigned their playground to mitigate temperature, sun exposure and flooding.
Vanos says they’ve had interest from North Carolina recently about bringing the HeatReady Schools program there.
California is another place working on their own school heat plans.
Bills moving through the state legislature would require master plans to make schools more climate and heat resilient.
The governor also recently announced grants to help schools convert asphalt to green spaces and plant trees to increase shade.