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Heat And Masks Without Air Conditioning Make For Miserable Return To School In Will County

CRETE, Ill. (CBS) -- Pencils, calculators and deoderant? The sticky start to the masked school year has some teachers calling on children to bring a unique list of supplies this year. The lack of air conditioning in one Will County district is making for a historically tricky return to school.

"Students come back from the extremely hot lunchroom with sweat pouring down their faces. The kids with allergies become so enflamed, their eyes are red and itchy, and they can't concentrate. The papers we pass out are curling because of the humidity," said one teacher.

Their classroom is in the mid 80s. The building at Crete Elementary is in its mid 90s.

"We've always dealt with some warm summers coming in but never with a mask mandate," said Crete-Monee School District Superintendent Kara Coglianese.

"We shouldn't even be at this point, but we are," said parent Jamie Healy. "Bring deoderant, bring extra water because they don't have water fountains."

Nor do they have voter support. Last spring 57% of Crete-Monee voters rejected a $65 million plan to build new schools.

"This community has a rep for failing referendums," said Healy.

At a Tuesday school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Surma explained how the classrooms actually "cook."

"I will tell you this: The'lly start heating up around 10 o'clock in the morning," he said. "They start cooking because they are brick buildings."

"Today my thermostat said it was 96 degrees witha feels like temperature of 106 degrees due to the humidity," one teacher said.

"Clearly this is not ideal. We know it is hot," said Coglianese.

Parents don't know why the district, which ends the school year in May, didn't slide the start of this unique school year into next month.

"The heat generally will go all the way sometimes to the end of September, and then we also have the problem with June. June is equally as hot," Coglianese said.

With lights off and fans and masks on, those filing the seats are struggling to cool -- and concentrate. It's a first week back unlike any their parents or grandparents ever had to contend with.

"You can't take in as much in as you normally could if you're sweating and you feel icky," said Healy.

While CBS 2's Chris Tye was at the school Thursday, emergency crews showed up to respond to what sources tell him was a teacher who passed out because of the heat inside.  In an email, a spokeswoman for the district said a staff member slipped on water in the washroom and was treated in the nurse's office.

The superintendent said they have plans to have all district buildings air conditioned by 2023.

If there are days the heat is particularly stifling, the state has instructed school districts to use e-learning days. Each district has five to use this year.

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