School officials defend early closings due to heat

Philadelphia School District officials are defending their decision to close schools early today due to heat.

The district announced Sunday that schools would close at noon today and that afterschool activities and programs would be canceled. The announcement claimed temperatures were expected to be in the upper 90s, although today’s forecasted high is 85 degrees.

Spokesman Fernando Gallard said the projected temperature was a mistake, but the district stands by its decision to close early.

“It’s all driven by the forecast. If the forecast allows us to make the decision earlier we will,” Gallard said, when asked why the district made the call a day in advance. He said they were expecting it to be “around 85 [degrees] and humidity.”

About 80 percent of the district’s facilities do not have air condition, Gallard said. “Since they were closed over the weekend, if you have high [temperatures] over the weekend they retain the heat.”

Comments on the websites of media outlets reporting the early closures were mixed, with some suggesting the move was to save money. The district has a $218 million deficit and plans to close dozens of facilities next year to cut costs.

Gallard said he did not know if closing the buildings early saved money, but noted “that’s not the driving factor here.”

He said the early closure is not expected to affect the last day of school, which is Thursday.

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