AUGUSTA — City elementary schools sent students home early Monday because of the heat, with the temperature reaching 91 degrees several times, breaking the record for June 12.

The prior record was 88 degrees, set in 1996, according to meteorologist Eric Schwibs of the National Weather Service in Gray.

Augusta children in grades pre-kindergarten through six were released at 11:30 a.m., according to an alert posted on the Augusta School Department website. The four elementary schools do not have air conditioning, prompting the early dismissal.

Grades 7-12 attend Cony middle and high school, which is air-conditioned except for the gym.

St. Michael School in Augusta, which follows the public school schedule, also dismissed its students early Monday.

“There is no defined temperature that requires us to release students early,” Augusta Schools Superintendent James Anastasio said on Monday. “The reason we (early) released today specifically is the elementary schools were closed up all weekend, and ventilation did not take place.”

That meant the second floors at Farrington, Gilbert, and Lincoln elementary schools were particularly warm. Hussey Elementary School has classrooms all on the ground floor, but Anastasio said it was better to release all the elementary schools at the same time.

The plan, he said is to ventilate the buildings Monday evening, so it’s cooler upstairs for Tuesday, and a regular school schedule is anticipated.

“We see today as an unusual situation.” Anastasio said, adding that he does not recall any other time schools have been released early because of the heat.

“Early release days are still considered school days,” Anastasio said, so Friday remains the last student day in Augusta.

Patricia Hopkins, superintendent of Maine School Administrative District 11, the Gardiner area schools, said that system was following a regular school day schedule on Monday.

“We have a lot of field trips, trips out, and kids out on the road, making it very difficult at this point to be able to do (early release),” she said. “Our director of operations is working with the schools to make sure windows are closed, lights are off and curtains are closed to keep it cooler.”

Friday is the final student day for students in the Gardiner area school system, and that is a half-day, Hopkins said.

She said several teacher workshop days were converted into student days so the school year would not have to be extended because of winter storm days.

Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with National Weather Service in Gray, said earlier Monday that temperatures at the Augusta State Airport hit 91 degrees on Sunday, tying the record for June 11, which was set in 1984.

“The normal high temperature would be 73, so that was 18 degrees above normal,” she said.

The Monday forecast for Augusta was also expected to hit close to the 90-degree mark with a relative humidity index of 91 degrees.

“That’s when lots of people start to get pretty uncomfortable,” she said. Temperatures should be a little cooler Tuesday and back to near normal on Wednesday and for the remainder of the week.

To keep children and adults cool, Augusta’s Bicentennial Nature Park, which offers swimming and picnicking on Three-Cornered Pond, is set to open Saturday for city residents and their guests. There is a fee.

The city’s free public pools are set to open June 20.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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