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Pittsburgh Public Schools closes buildings due to extreme heat for the fifth time this school year

Schoolyard with basketball hoop and playground.
Jillian Forstadt
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Montessori PreK-5 in Friendship.

Dozens of Pittsburgh public schools without air conditioning will switch to remote learning for students Tuesday as temperatures climb into the high 80s.

This marks the fifth time Pittsburgh Public Schools has closed buildings due to extreme heat during this school year.

According to the district’s Extreme Heat Protocol, administrators are expected to consider moving classes in schools without sufficient air conditioning to remote learning any time the National Weather Service forecasts outside temperatures that “reach or exceed 85°F and/or a heat index of 90°F or higher.”

Exposure to excessive heat can lead to dehydration, sleep disruptions and learning loss, and many PPS schools lack the infrastructure needed to keep students cool.

As a result, 39 of the district’s 54 schools will move to remote live instruction Tuesday. Families affected by the switch can pick up grab-and-go meals at 16 locations across the city from 7 to 9 a.m.

Temperatures are not expected to reach extreme heat levels again before the district’s last day of school, scheduled for Wednesday, June 12.

The district’s cooling problems illustrate some of the issues presented in the district’s Facilities Utilization Plan, released earlier this year. According to administrators, the average PPS school building is 90 years old.

In December, school board members passed a seven-year capital plan that includes funding for air conditioning installation at five schools: Colfax K-8, Lincoln PreK-5, Phillips K-5, Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, and Weil PreK-5.

Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.