AUSTIN/ROUND ROCK (KXAN) – “If it’s too hot for a teacher to be outside, it’s too hot for a kid to be outside,” said Jenny LaCoste-Caputo.
As Chief of Public Affairs for Round Rock ISD, LaCoste-Caputo says that’s the principal rule of thumb for their school district when it comes to keeping students safe now that they’re back to school.
She added, “in that case, we’d have an alternate activity.”
Most of the time, kids at Round Rock schools get to spend their roughly 20-minute recess or lunch outside, even in triple digits, thanks to a 2018 bond that made outdoor playgrounds more heat tolerant.
“The shade structures, we made them larger, they’re newer, they completely cover the playgrounds, in some cases, we actually consolidated so instead of a few small playgrounds, we have one large playground, under shade,” said LaCoste-Caputo.
But not all playgrounds are AS safe.
A particular concern at recess is the temperature of playground equipment. While plastic equipment can still get very hot, metal equipment, like the type that can be used on monkey bars, has a higher chance of causing burns.
It takes just a few seconds of contact with equipment at 140º or hotter to cause skin burns.
Dr. Sivasankar is a pediatric emergency medical physician at St. David’s Children’s Hospital.
He suggests teachers and parents check equipment first using their own hands to do the “5-second touch test.”
“If you’re going to have to remove it before that five seconds, it’s way too hot,” said Dr. Sivasankar.
While burns caused by equipment are relatively rare…heat exhaustion and dehydration are more common.
For parents who have avoided the hottest part of the day all summer, they hope schools will do the same.
“I don’t really think it’s safe to be out here for very long…They’ll go into the gym or something else when it’s really peak hot,” said Caitlin McColl, a parent of two living in Austin.
It turns out the key to child safety in the heat is prevention.
“Focusing on things like pre-hydration, making sure that they have enough water in them before they’re starting the day and before they’re going out to recess, and then hydrating again after coming back from recess,” added Dr. Sivasankar.
And of course, don’t forget the sunscreen on your kids too!