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Teachers union asks for half day Friday amid heatwave

The John D. Runkle School in Brookline. Photo by John Phelan via Wikimedia Commons
September 7, 2023

The Brookline teachers union is asking the Public Schools of Brookline to make Friday a half day because of an unexpected September heat wave.

Temperatures reached 95 degrees in Brookline on Thursday and are forecast to hit the lower 90s again on Friday as the first week of school wraps up.

Justin Brown, president of the Brookline Educators Union, said that teachers have sent him pictures of thermostats in their rooms reading as high as 90 degrees.

“That doesn’t tell us about the heat index and the experience of these kinds of oppressive temperatures. And we know that has a detrimental effect not only on a teacher’s ability to deliver quality instruction, but on a student’s ability to learn,” Brown said.

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The BEU, which represents nearly 1,200 teachers and other staff in Brookline schools, sent a letter to the superintendent of schools on Thursday asking to declare Friday a half day.

“We’re urging the district to do the right thing here knowing that today’s high temperatures will mean that our buildings will continue to heat up and that heat will not be released over the course of the night and that we’ll come in tomorrow to very hot buildings,” Brown said.

Other Massachusetts public school systems including in Framingham, Lowell, Melrose and Worcester canceled or shortened their school days on Thursday. Lowell has already called a half day on Friday.

In a message to parents later Thursday evening, superintendent Linus Guillory said that schools are working to relocate staff and students to cooler spaces within buildings, and to keep air systems on overnight Thursday.

“We continue to follow the guidance of the Brookline Public Health Department which has not declared a heat emergency,” Guillory wrote.

He asked parents to send their students to school with water and in cool, comfortable clothing.

“We do recognize the strain this puts on students and staff, and we appreciate the flexibility that has been demonstrated and exercised this week,” Guillory wrote.