Fresh air and exercise are an important part of the school day. Time spent outdoors gives students the opportunity to engage in activities that allow them to relax from the structure of the classroom for a short period of time. It is difficult to set guidelines that fit every circumstance and condition in regard to outside activity during hot weather. Please consider the following guidelines regarding modifying school recess, other outdoor physical activity or physical education.
Principals have final discretion to determine the criteria for such decisions regarding safety of outdoor activity on a day-to-day basis.
Heat-induced illness is preventable. The capabilities and limitations of the students themselves must always be kept in mind. There is no substitute for vigilant supervision. It is essential that a teacher or playground monitor be alert for signs of potential problems.
Children do not adapt to extremes of temperatures as effectively as adults. During physical activity, children produce more metabolic heat than adults. They have a higher surface area-to-body mass ratio allowing a greater amount of heat to be absorbed from the environment to the body. Additionally, their sweating capacity is lower thus reducing the ability to dissipate body heat by evaporation. Children are less likely to feel thirsty during prolonged play and exercise and need to be reminded to drink water. As temperatures rise, children should be acclimated to increased temperature over a period of days. The intensity and duration of outdoor activities should be adjusted as the students become acclimated.
Conditions that should be considered in the determination:
- Exposure (full sun, partial shade, full shade)
- Age of Students
- Length of Time Outdoors
- Adequacy of Clothing of the Children
- Temperature of the Playground (metal and plastic parts)
- Heat index temperature (see below)
During times of excessive heat, precautions will be taken for all outdoor physical activity.
- Students should be hydrated prior to outdoor activities and drinking water should be easily accessible.
- Plan outdoor activities earlier in the day when the temperature is cooler
- Encourage and allow students to carry a water bottle and encourage frequent water breaks.
- Staff members should know the signs of heat-related illnesses and monitor students and notify the nurse if concerned (see below)
- Avoid strenuous play or activity.
- Encourage students to wear hats and sunscreen.
- Schools should honor reasonable parent requests based on health reasons that accompany a doctor's note.
- In particular, asthmatic children may need special accommodation for their needs during extreme weather conditions. The parent and school must work to determine a workable system for when the child should not participate in outdoor activities due to health.