Across central Maine, children are heading back to school this week and leaving summer behind.

Summer, apparently, is not willing to be left behind so easily.

On Wednesday, the daytime high is expected to be 90 degrees — but with the expected humidity, the heat index is expected to reach 96 degrees.

Hand-in-hand with Wednesday’s hot weather comes an air quality alert. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is cautioning people, particularly children, healthy adults who have to exert themselves in the heat and those with respiratory illnesses to take precautions on Wednesday.

While ozone levels will be elevated only in coastal areas, the DEP reports, particle pollution levels will be moderate across the entire state, prompting the advisory.

That’s causing school district officials to send out advisories on how to keep classrooms cool and children out of harm’s way in the heat.

In Gardiner, Patricia Hopkins, superintendent of School Administrative District 11, sent out a districtwide email advising teachers to take measures to keep their classrooms cool.

“Before leaving tonight (Tuesday) if your classroom is located on the first floor, please close all your windows and shades,” Hopkins wrote. “If your classroom is located on the second floor, please open all your windows for air circulation. The custodians will close them first thing in the morning. If you have a fan in your room, please keep it running all night.”

On Wednesday, teachers are advised to keep windows and curtains closed and to skip using any technology that’s likely to generate heat.

“Plan on students having indoor recess. Make sure all students are given plenty of water to hydrate. Keep fans running to help circulate the air,” Hopkins wrote. “If there are locations in your school building that have air conditioning, consider rotating students through the building to allow all students some relief from the heat.”

District officials are expected to monitor conditions throughout the day.

Eric Haley, superintendent of Waterville Public Schools, said Tuesday that school district staff members are planning for the heat.

“We have started fall sports and, as a matter of fact, have some scrimmages scheduled for the next couple of days,” Haley said via email. “We are shortening practices, (scheduling) more water breaks, providing tents over the benches and having officials call time out for water breaks as well.”

These precautions are likely to be necessary for only a day.

This particular stretch of hot and humid weather is expected to break Thursday, after which cooler and drier conditions are expected for the Labor Day weekend.

But in the meantime, the heat index — the combined effect of high temperature and high humidity — will make the air temperature feel like it’s 96 degrees, this summer’s latest hot spell.

“It’s been quite humid this summer,” said Tom Hawley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.

While the National Weather Service doesn’t track humidity the way it tracks temperature, it does track dew points. That’s the temperature to which air must be cooled for dew or condensation to form.

“A dew point over 70 is tough to take up here,” Hawley said.

While he couldn’t put his hands on the data for Augusta, he said someone in the office had looked up dew points in Portland.

“We’ve spent more time this year with dew points above 70 than we have since 1973,” he said. “If Portland is at a record, Augusta probably will be, too.”

Temperaturewise, central Maine has broken no records this summer. Compared to 1952, when the daily high temperature was 90 degrees or higher 18 times, this summer barely registers. As of Monday, only five days broke the 90-degree mark — three in July and two in August. Adding two more days this week will match the total of 7 days in 2016.

Because of the high humidity this summer, Hawley said, it’s instructive to look at the daily minimum temperature.

“We’ve had only three days so far this year with minimum temperatures greater than or equal to 70 degrees, and those three days have been in August.”

That compares favorably to the humid summer of 1973, he said, when the overnight low temperature did not dip below 70 on 18 days that year, 10 of which were in August.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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