MILWAUKEE — Tai Lusrush, a senior at the Milwaukee High School of Arts, is spending his second week inside a building that has no air conditioning in the middle of August.
"I'm just happy that fall is coming. It's been hot. I bring a fan, a portable fan. I sometimes bring water bottles," said Lusrush.
On Wednesday, MPS officials let students out early because of the heat. Thursday was a full day. District officials rented an AC truck for the administration building. They tell TMJ4 that was because staff members were not permitted to go home in the afternoon Wednesday like kids were. But the optics of it angered some.
"It was really upsetting to be sitting next to a rented air-conditioned unit while we are passing out water bottles so that our students and educators can remain cool," said Angela Harris, a chairwoman for the Black Educators Caucus.
The Black Educators Caucus of Milwaukee decided to try and help.
"We put out an urgent call to the community to donate things like water bottles, coolers, ice, fans," said Harris.
In a statement regarding their plans to keep students and staff cool, MPS officials said, "Facilities and maintenance are adding fans and cooling units to schools daily and that school leaders have been handing out cold and frozen waters to students."
"A lot of the teachers bring fans to cool down the class, and that's pretty cool," said Lusrush.
Some parents argue that MPS is doing the best they can.
"To beat the district up because we've got a 90° temperature with 75% humidity, which is as unusual in Milwaukee as it could ever be, is not the answer. There are things that you can blame the district for, but to continue to blame the district for things that are out of their control is not the right way to address education," said one parent, Earl Ingram.
But community leaders argue that district officials should be looking for a later school start date.
"For the past three years, it's been an issue for schools that don't have air conditioning in the summer, going back in the middle of August, having to deal with unbearable heat in their classroom space. It's time to reevaluate the calendar system, and really think about if having two calendars, early start and traditional, is beneficial for our students," said Harris.