When recess rolls around over the next several days, Beaufort County students might not be spending it outside, despite the sunshine.
In fact, they might be forced inside because of the sunshine.
With the heat index expected to soar to well over 100 degrees before the end of the week, the Beaufort County School District has a new rule to keep students safe, district spokesman Jim Foster said Wednesday.
A heat index chart has been distributed to principals, with certain high combinations of temperature and humidity highlighted in yellow and red. When those high levels are reached -- and they are expected to for the next several days -- students should not be let outside, whether for recess, a class activity or athletics, according to Foster.
"That chart had just been discretionary in the past for school-day activities," Foster said. "But with the heat wave approaching, (several district officials) met and talked (Wednesday) and decided to err on the side of caution and institute that as a rule."
Hilton Head Island Elementary School principal Jill McAden said she kept fifth-graders inside for recess Tuesday because she felt it was too hot.
However, that time was well used, she added.
McAden's fifth-grade teachers incorporated the heat index chart into math or science lessons so students could understand why they couldn't go outside.
"That way, the students don't just hear, 'It's too hot outside,' but they can see and understand why it's not safe," she said.
Okatie Elementary School principal Jamie Pinckney said she also encourages teachers to come up with fun inside activities. Those teaching the youngest typically try to include physical activities so the children can release some energy, she said.
During such extreme heat, the school urges children to bring water bottles so they can stay hydrated throughout the day.
"This is just too hot," Pinckney said. "Kids are more prone to heat exhaustion, and we just want to make sure they are safe and are able to focus and be comfortable in class."
McAden and Pinckney said they and other principals also keep students inside during dismissal times until their bus or parent has arrived.
The district's athletics departments have used the heat index chart as a rule for the past several years, Beaufort High School athletics director Jerry Linn said. Trainers constantly monitor the temperature and humidity levels throughout practices and will make adjustments depending on the heat.
For example, teams always make sure to have extra water stations and breaks during extreme heat. Players in sports that require heavy gear, such as football, are advised to practice without the equipment. And if temperatures continue to rise, practices are moved inside, Linn said.
He said he expects most high school and middle school practices to be moved indoors over the next several days.
"We were lucky at the beginning of August that it wasn't that bad, but now the trainer and I talk almost daily about the heat and are very conscious of it," Linn said. "We are all very aware of the protocol and just want to make sure students and staff stay safe."
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