As temperatures reached 103 on Monday, McKinley High School felt those triple digits more than most when its air conditioning broke and hours later a fire scorched a small patch of grass on the school grounds.
The air conditioning in classrooms went out in the morning and sent nearly 1,500 students to the gym and auditorium, which still had cool air, while repairs were being made.
Principal Herman Brister Jr. said a motor broke on the main chiller, leaving the school’s two main buildings without air. He said he’s not sure when it happened.
The air conditioning was fixed and working again by Monday evening, said Adonica Duggan, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system. Students will go back to their normal routine Tuesday.
McKinley High received another unexpected surprise early Monday afternoon when a small fire started in the grass on the school grounds.
The Baton Rouge Fire Department sent one firetruck to the field, said agency spokesman Mark Miles. The fire was confined to a 10-by-10 patch of grass and was quickly extinguished.
A broom was used to put the fire out in “a matter of seconds,” Brister said.
Although not certain of the cause, Brister said it was likely someone from a nearby apartment complex who flicked a cigarette ash by the field.
Miles agreed, saying a simple flicked cigarette is all it takes to start a grass fire “as dry as it is” today.
While the air conditioning was out, students spent much of Monday in the gym and auditorium and were well-behaved, Brister said. They were sent home at the normal dismissal time in the afternoon.
“Our kids responded like champs,” Brister said. “They were great.”
The first two days of school on Thursday and Friday went smoothly without any air conditioning problems, Brister said.