BUXTON — Instead of sitting in class Wednesday at Bonny Eagle High School, Lukkas Pierce was launching himself into the refreshingly cool waters of the Saco River near Bar Mills in Buxton.

“It’s hot,” he said, by way of explanation.

Pierce was one of thousands of students in School Administrative District 6 and SAD 60, covering parts of York and Cumberland counties, who were sent home early Wednesday because of unusually hot conditions.

“This is the first time in my 30 years of education that school has been closed for heat,” said SAD 6 Superintendent Frank Sherburne. He said temperatures were headed for the 90s for the second day in a row, pushing the heat in classrooms, which lack air conditioning, close to 100 degrees.

“Kids can’t learn when it’s that hot,” he said.

Tyler Collins, 17, can appreciate that.

“I was just sitting there doing my work and sweat was just pouring off me,” Collins said, recalling the heat from Tuesday afternoon. “I was in the auditorium for my film history class and it was like a sauna in there.”

“You lose focus easy,” said Hunter Tompson, who along with friends Jeremiah Sheehan and Alex Sprague, all 16-year-olds, were chugging chocolate milk minutes after getting out of school. With school out, staying cool was the order of the day.

“We’re going to a friend’s house and going in the pool,” Sheehan said.

The SAD 60 schools, serving North Berwick, Berwick and Lebanon, and the SAD 6 schools, serving Buxton, Hollis, Limington, Standish and Frye Island, announced early Wednesday that school was closing at lunchtime for an unscheduled early release day.

“It’s an extremely rare situation, but given the heat and humidity, it seemed like the safest thing to do for our kids,” said Sherburne, who was concerned that students could become dehydrated. Staff checked room temperatures Tuesday and found most classrooms hotter than 90 degrees and some hovering around 100 degrees, he said.

COOL-DOWN TO BEGIN THURSDAY

Humidity climbed Wednesday to about 70 percent in inland York County. Sanford hit 91 degrees Wednesday and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, reached 94 degrees. In Portland, the high was 86 on Wednesday, below the record of 93 set in 2002, but well above the normal high of 72.

Relief is expected Thursday and Friday in the form of rain and cooler temperatures.

The rain will be welcome after below-normal precipitation in August and early September, said James Brown of the National Weather Service in Gray.

“We really do need some rain,” he said. “Hopefully, when this cold front comes through, it will alleviate that somewhat.”

Brown noted that the school buildings didn’t cool off much overnight Tuesday because it stayed warm.

Sherburne said some of the schools in his district have poor air circulation, and that in the old, three-story section of Bonny Eagle High School the temperature increases with each floor. Not all schools were as bad, but the whole district uses a coordinated bus schedule.

“It becomes a real logistical nightmare to close two elementary schools and keep three open,” he said. He said students’ homes would likely be cooler than school.

SAD 60 Superintendent Steven Connolly, in an announcement posted on the district’s website, said he decided to schedule the early release day because the uncomfortably high temperatures were going to be slightly worse than Tuesday’s.

“I do not wish to create hardships on families, but I think this is the right thing to do,” he wrote. “I was in several schools (Tuesday), and the temps were consistently in the low 90s on each school’s second floor.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said closing schools is a local decision that does not involve the state. She did not know whether any other schools closed early.

DISCOMFORT IN OTHER HOT STATES

Some schools in other states have air conditioning, but many don’t, which was causing controversies in some mid-Atlantic and Northeast states.

Tuesday was the sixth day in September that temperatures reached at least 90 degrees in Baltimore. The Baltimore County, Maryland, school district closed schools two hours early Tuesday because of the heat, and canceled after-school and evening activities. Fifty-two public schools in the district – about 30 percent – do not have air conditioning.

Boston, where 30 of 126 schools have air conditioning, bought 16 window air conditioners and installed them in elementary schools this week, according to media reports. The schools have been rotating students into air-conditioned rooms to give them a break from the heat.

Despite the heat, Pierce was disappointed to be missing football practice at Bonny Eagle.

“I’m a boots and jeans kind of guy. You just have to acclimate,” he said. “I’m not one to complain. I just deal with it.”

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: Mainehenchman

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian

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