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Heat, humidity caused UMD to cancel some classes Tuesday

Classes resumed for the fall semester at the University of Minnesota Duluth this week -- but it seems summer wasn't quite ready to let go. UMD canceled classes in several buildings on Tuesday afternoon because of the heat and humidity -- temperat...

Classes resumed for the fall semester at the University of Minnesota Duluth this week - but it seems summer wasn't quite ready to let go.

UMD canceled classes in several buildings on Tuesday afternoon because of the heat and humidity - temperatures reached the low 80s in Duluth with dew points in the upper 60s at times, creating very humid conditions. The cancellation affected most or all classrooms in eight buildings that don't have air conditioning.

"We want (students) to have a good learning environment," said Andrea Schokker, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at UMD. "It's kind of hard to learn any subject material when you're sitting in a sauna next to a lot of other students."

The "heat cancellation" policy is new this year, Schokker said, developed in consultation with faculty and administration.

"What we've got is a pretty big inventory of buildings that still need to have updates and don't have air conditioning," she said. "We have targeted a couple of buildings we know have excessive heat problems. If a classroom reaches temperatures (of) about 85 degrees we'll consider canceling. We don't anticipate having to do this very often, but we're starting early (this year) and that's why we put this in place in case we needed it. It's primarily about making sure students have a good learning environment and to avoid some safety issues."

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If a heat cancellation is issued, faculty members with classes in the affected buildings have the option to issue assignments online or meet with their classes elsewhere.

Tuesday's cancellations - for most classes in the affected halls starting between noon and 8 p.m. - came a day after sophomore Sommer Heikkila sat through class in one of the eight buildings. It was uncomfortable without air conditioning, she said.

"My first class was pretty hot," she said - though she's used to warm weather after growing up in the Twin Cities.

Christie Osh, a senior, was doing homework in the Solon Campus Center on Tuesday as a way to stay away from the heat outside between classes.

"I try to avoid it at all costs," she said.

Her classes weren't canceled because they were in air-conditioned classrooms, and she has air conditioning at her off-campus apartment. It's usually muggy at the start of the school year, she said, but Tuesday was uncomfortable even by those standards.

"I don't remember being like, 'I'm dying,' " she said.

Affected buildings included A.B. Anderson Hall, the Engineering Building, most of Heller Hall, the Humanities Building, Marshall W. Alworth Hall, Voss-Kovach Hall, the Sports and Health Center and rooms without air conditioning in the Marshall Performing Arts Center.

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The cancellation affected 26 out of 83 centrally scheduled classrooms, UMD reported.

Schokker said UMD is working to upgrade its buildings. Cina Hall - one of the school's largest classroom buildings - is closed this year for renovations, including the installation of air conditioning.

"We're slowly making progress," she said. "We have quite a few buildings yet to go."

News Tribune reporters Brady Slater and Lisa Kaczke contributed to this story.

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