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Taiwan may give pupils 'heat days'

Education officials to consider giving students days off due to increase in extreme weather events

Students on their way to exams in Saturday's heat 

Students on their way to exams in Saturday's heat  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As large parts of Taiwan sweltered under the heat Saturday (July 3), education officials said they are preparing to meet in August to consider giving pupils days off during periods of extreme heat.

The Central Weather Bureau issued an orange heat alert Saturday for the landlocked county of Nantou in central Taiwan. Orange means there could be a one-day high of 38 degrees Celsius or a maximum temperature of 36 C for three consecutive days.

A yellow warning, indicating a one-day high of 36 C, was issued for Taipei. It was also given to New Taipei in the north, Changhua County in central Taiwan, Hualien County on the east coast, and Kaohsiung City, Yunlin County, and Pingtung County in the south, CNA reported.

Representatives from all city and county-level government departments of education plan to meet in August to discuss measures that deal with the impact of extreme weather on the scheduling of classes, the New Taipei City Government said. While local governments can reschedule classes, only the Ministry of Education can cancel them, according to New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜).

Local governments already have the authority to cancel classes and shut down offices during typhoons. This is an annual occurrence that often provokes bitter debate due to being based on sometimes inaccurate weather forecasting.

In response to the increasing frequency of extreme weather, schools have started installing air conditioning, but the process is still far from complete. Some environmentalists point out that planting more trees to cut temperatures might help more than increasing air conditioning.

In the capital, the month of June saw the mercury peak at 36 C or higher for 16 days, with a 124-year record for June set at 38.9 C.