OPUSD abides by heat policy

Enforcing the heat policy for outdoor activities

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Energy Upgrade California reported that the future brings more frequent and longer heat waves, and drier summers for the greater Los Angeles area. Due to the recent inconsistencies in Californian climate change, Oak Park High School’s heat policy plays a more pivotal role in ensuring the safety of student athletes across all school sports.

While many students are eager to start off their respective sport’s season at the beginning of the school year, the district’s priority in these conditions is keeping students safe and healthy. This means following the district-wide heat policy that is set for all schools within the Oak Park Unified School District.

To gauge the intensity of the temperature, the heat policy utilizes the heat index (HI) which combines different factors such as air temperature and relative humidity to generate a number of humiture.

“The heat index takes into account if there’s wind and the moisture in the air and all those things to come up with a number. It’s usually pretty close to what the temperature is,” said Assistant Principal Jason Meskis.

According to the heat index, a “caution day” is defined as ranging from 80 to 89 HI units, which accounts for 75 percent activity and 25 percent resting time. All of these statistics are also available on the district website.

“You have to just make sure you’re giving the kids more rest and water,” Meskis said.

For extreme cases, the activity-to-rest ratio changes to ensure that practice continues in safe conditions.

However, in regard to football, the enforcement tactics can be more complicated.

“The issue with a game like football is you can’t mandate rest,” said Meskis. “The kids are in and they’re going and you don’t know when there’s going to be a timeout. It’s ‘play, play, play, play, play,’ so it’s not like you can say ‘OK, well we’re going 50 percent activity 50 percent rest’ because kids are going to go full speed.”

The football athletes themselves, for the most part, hold a similar viewpoint, and understand the purpose of the district heat policy.

“Last year was mainly when we had our heat policy affect us. There would be practices where we would only be allowed to go helmets or go shoulder pads, which is actually kind of nice,” varsity football player Michael Holcomb said. “I enjoy that aspect of the heat policy because it keeps our best interest in mind.”

While football is the sport most commonly associated with heat-related complications, other sports such as soccer can undergo similar consequences.

“[The heat policy] has affected the times for the summer conditioning. Usually we practice in the middle of the day, during the heat of the day, so it makes it really hard,” junior varsity soccer player Eden Eliahou said. “I don’t think they’ve ever cancelled practice; they may have cut it short though.”

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, 31 high school football players have died from heat stroke since 1995. This shows that heat illness is real and emphasizes the importance of precautionary measures suggested by the Oak Park Unified School District heat policy.

The district’s top priority in these circumstances is to keep athletes safe despite the chance of a sporting event being cancelled.

Safety’s first; as a district we want to make sure that kids are safe, that’s our number one thing,” Meskis said.

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