Schools respond to heat

COVINGTON -- It's hot.

And it's even hotter if you are traveling on a school bus for an extended period of time.

That's why the Newton County School System has implemented a new protocol on its school buses, which will begin transporting students today to begin the 2010-11 school year.

NCSS officials announced Wednesday that bus drivers will allow all students to bring water in plastic water bottles with a secure twist-on lid on board during their morning and afternoon bus rides. Normally, as part of the bus rules and safety procedures, students are asked to help keep the bus clean by not eating or drinking, according to Michael C. Barr, director of Support Services at NCSS.

"In a fleet of 257 buses, only 27 special-needs buses are equipped with air conditioning," said Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent for Operations at NCSS. "For this reason, we are implementing the water bottle program, given the expectancy of continued high temperatures."

Additionally, buses will operate with windows and roof hatches open to optimize air flow on the buses. System officials anticipate following these protocols until September.

"The safety of our students is a primary concern, and we will monitor this situation daily during the first weeks of school," he said.

This is similar to protocols being enacted in other Georgia school districts, such as Cobb and Rockdale counties, which began the new school year earlier this month.

For outdoor activities, NCSS follows guidelines that limit or reschedule activities and provide for more breaks and fluids during extreme temperatures.

Extremely hot and humid weather will continue across Georgia, weather officials said.

For the past month, much of Georgia has experienced a heat wave. Forecasters at the National Weather Service have continuously issued heat advisories for many Georgia regions, which have been experiencing temperatures in the 90s with high humidity making it feel like more than 100 degrees outside.

Weather service meteorologist Laura Belanger said prolonged periods of above-90 high temperatures are unusual. Abnormally high humidity from a tropical air mass sitting over the region has helped push the heat index above 100 degrees many days.

Forecasters say the young, the elderly and those with heart problems are most at risk in the intense heat.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.