Students in the Fulton County School System were among the last students to head back to school this year, but the later summer start on Aug. 12 provided little relief from scorching temperatures.

A heat advisory was in place the entire first week of school as high temperatures and humidity made the 90-plus degree day feel more like 100-plus.  

And it wasn’t just your imagination that it seemed hotter than usual. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth; August is tracking to break another record.

Fulton School officials said they made preparations to keep kids safe and comfortable despite the string of 90-degree days that continued into the second week.

“[Our] highest priority is the health and safety of our students and staff,” said Shumuriel Ratliff, spokeswoman for the school district. “School personnel have been advised to take all necessary precautions to keep students and staff safe in potentially extreme temperatures.”

With temperatures in the 90s, buses packed with dozens of children can seem even warmer. Ratliff acknowledged only the special education buses have air conditioning because some of the children are medically fragile.

“Air conditioning isn’t an industry standard feature on a [typical] school bus,” said Ratliff. “{But] most students aren’t on the bus longer than 25 minutes.”

She said students are allowed to bring water bottles on board to make their ride more comfortable.

Once inside the buildings, air conditioning and limited outdoor exposure keeps students comfortable, but for athletes — particularly football players — the heat cannot be avoided. 

Milton High School quarterback Jackson Weaver said summer workouts have prepared the team to practice and play in the August heat.

“It’s been very hot at practice, but we’ve gotten used to it,” said Weaver, a senior. “I think it’s going to help us on Friday nights at the end of the game when the other team is tired and we are still in full force.”

The Georgia High School Association sets rules for when football players can wear shoulder pads and helmets for practice, and it requires breaks during practice. This year, players who had gone through at least five days of conditioning could don pads and helmets beginning Aug. 1.

Steven Craft, director of athletics for Fulton Schools, said the district strictly abides by the GHSA guidelines and policies concerning heat and weather. Each school has a trainer present for practices and competitions who continuously monitors weather conditions and compliance with guidelines

“For football practice, the guidelines can include shorter practices, more water breaks, or the reduction in equipment [such as] helmets and shoulder pads versus full pads, helmets only, or no outdoor practices,” Craft said. 

He noted with the extreme heat in August, several schools have moved practice to the morning before school or pushed practice times back in the evenings. 

Practicing in the heat is something Milton offensive lineman Paul Tchio knows is part of the game in the South — and makes him a stronger player.

“{The heat] builds us up and makes us stronger as a team,” said Tchio, a senior who will continue his career at Clemson University next year. “And practicing all summer eases us into fall camp where we put pads on.”

The unusual heat wave this August could revive calls by state lawmakers to push for a later start to school. Last year, lawmakers considered a bill that would start school closer to Labor Day following the prompting of travel and tourism officials.

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