Lawrence High School seniors Colin Day, left, and Josiah Webber went for a run on the Fairfield track Monday after their marching practice was cut short due to the heat. Forecasts called for temperatures to reach into the 90s Monday and Tuesday. Haley Hersey/Morning Sentinel

Lawrence High School seniors Josiah Webber and Colin Day had their school day cut short Monday after starting practice for graduation marching, ending more than an hour early because of the heat.

At first they didn’t realize marching practice was cut loose early, until school officials provided the seniors popsicles and announced the school day would end at 11 a.m. The pair decided to go for a run together on the track after the announcement.

“I was excited to go for a run with my friend Colin,” Webber said, as the temperature there reached 93 degrees by midday.

Lawrence was among several central Maine schools that dismissed students early Monday as a heat advisory for much of inland Maine prompted extra caution as temperatures soared. Pandemic mask mandates at school further added to school officials’ concerns, with temperatures forecast to reach highs of 95 Monday and 92 Tuesday.

“We’re still kind of looking at the possibility for a heat advisory tomorrow,” National Weather Service Meteorologist William Watson said. He add though he thought the combination of lower temperatures and similar dew points would make another heat advisory unlikely.

Regional School Unit 18, which serves approximately 2,500 students from the towns of Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney across its eight schools, began dismissing students at 11:30 a.m. Monday, and was planning to doing it again Tuesday. RSU 18’s last day of school is Wednesday, which was already planned as an early release day ending at noon.

“We have a lot of buildings with second and third floors, and it’s just sweltering,” RSU 18 Superintendent Carl Gartley. “We’re told to limit time even outdoors with the heat index. I hate to dismiss school, but I just think this is the best way to keep everybody safe.”

Maine School Administrative District 49 released students early Monday, with grades seven through 12 leaving at 11 a.m., and pre-K-6 dismissed at noon. The district was planning to release students early again on Tuesday. MSAD’s six schools serve students from Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield.

Water runs off the face Cameron McDade, 5, after the boy dunked his head in water Monday at his grandmother’s home in Waterville. The boy’s grandmother Mary Williamson, left, said she improvised after finding that kids pools were sold out at the store. She said she and Cameron would have watermelon as part of their day of fun in the shade. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

MSAD 49 Superintendent Roberta Hersom said that it was the combination of the heat, humidity, mask mandates and distancing requirements that prompted the district to call for early dismissals Monday and Tuesday.

Normally, Hersom said, the district is able to move kids into cooler spaces like the auditorium, as the classrooms don’t have air conditioning. But with distancing requirements, those spaces don’t have the same capacity they normally do.

“I think it is safest to close early, and we will do that tomorrow as well,” Hersom said. “Hopefully we’ll have drier, cooler air come Wednesday.”

Hersom said the district wanted to announce tomorrow’s early release at the same time to give parents as much notice as possible.

Maine Administrative School District 54 began dismissing students at noon Monday. MSAD 54 serves students from the towns of Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield across nine schools.

Winslow Public Schools dismissed elementary school students at noon Monday, with junior high and high school students leaving earlier at 11:30 a.m. The schools were planning to do the same on Tuesday.

Waterville Public Schools planned staggering releases Monday, beginning with Waterville Senior High School at 11:30 a.m., the junior high school at 11:35 a.m., Albert S. Hall and George J. Mitchell both at 12:30 pm.

“Our second stories that we have in some of our buildings and also some of the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms have excessive heat,” Waterville Public Schools Superintendent Eric Haley said. “It’s only for today, but they’re predicting 91 for tomorrow, so it very well could be the same thing tomorrow.”

Outside Waterville High, Zack Murphy arrived to pick up his daughter. “Gonna go down to the lake and cool off,” Murphy said. “It’s a good way to end the year.”

The Augusta Public School System dismissed students at Farrington Elementary School, Sylvio Gilbert Elementary School, Lillian P. Hussey Elementary School and Lincoln Elementary School at noon Monday due to “extreme heat,” and planned to do the same Tuesday. Cony Middle and High School will continue its regular schedule.

Maine School Administrative District 11 dismissed all students Monday for “forecasted heat and unhealthy air quality.” MSAD 11 serves Gardiner, West Gardiner, Pittston and Randolph. Students at Gardiner Area High School and Gardiner Regional Middle School left at 11 a.m. Monday and students at all elementary schools were dismissed at noon.

“Without air conditioning in the majority of our classrooms, and with students and staff having to wear masks, remaining in our school building for the entire school day with room temperatures in the 90s is not healthy,” Director of Technology Terry McGuire wrote on the school district’s website. All students in MSAD 11 will be remote on Tuesday for the same reasons.

Regional School Unit 12, which serves students from Alna, Somerville, Palermo, Westport Island, Whitefield, Windsor and Chelsea, had an early release at 11:30 a.m. Monday.

“We don’t have air conditioning in any classrooms, and in our buildings with second floors, they get extremely hot in weather like this,” Superintendent Howie Tuttle said. “The kids have to wear masks and with the heat advisory alert from the National Weather Service, it seemed like the right thing to do.”

Tuttle said it’s “rare to close because of the heat” and “can’t recall” if RSU 12 has closed in the past because of hot weather.

Officials at Erskine Academy in South China and North Anson-based Regional School Unit 74 said they were not planning an early release for students. Madison schools did not plan an early release, but said parents were welcome to pick up their children early if they wished.

Todd Kerby and dog Tonka, a 1-year-old German shepherd from Vassalboro, cool off Monday in China Lake. Kerby, who was given the dog for Father’s Day, said it was the dog’s first time swimming. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

After the scorching 90-degree heat early this week, the forecast calling for temperatures to fall a bit into the mid-80s Wednesday and 70s through the weekend.

Morning Sentinel reporters Taylor Abbott and Kaytlin Budion and Kennebec Journal reporter Emily Duggan contributed to this report. 

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