The students tripped out of Jacobsville Elementary School three hours early yesterday with a giddiness that belied the heat.
"This is my favorite day of the whole school year," declared Travis Haas, a fourth-grader, as he scurried to catch his bus.
A combination of temperatures in the low 90s and humidity prompted the Anne Arundel County Board of Education to close all elementary,middle and high schools.
The Memorial Day holiday compounded the problem. "The schools had been closed for three days, and the heat had really built up," said spokeswoman Jane Doyle.
Karen Hardesty, a special education teacher, said Jacobsville was like an oven -- theair hot and stagnant -- when the teachers arrived early in the morning.
"When you are in a hot classroom with 30 bodies, it's almost unbearable," said Hardesty. "The students are so sleepy and lethargic that it's hard to get them motivated."
By noon, the school's wide-open doors and windows invited a cooling breeze through its corridors. But the school board had already issued the closing order.
The band had completed its last concert of the year when principal Wayne R. Miller announced the closing about 10 a.m. First the students couldgo, then the teachers.
Whooping cheers could be heard from the fourth and fifth grades, while the younger grades took the news more quietly.
"I was surprised only the one group cheered," Miller said. "Then one of the teachers came up and told me I was wrong: The teachers cheered, too."
"I got really excited, then I started thinking about what I would do," said Billy Towns, a fourth-grader.
Did he have big plans for the afternoon?
"Yeah, if you call a squirt gun battle big plans," Towns said.
Because schools completed a half-daybefore closing, yesterday's closing will not affect plans to finish the curriculum by June 13.
"This time of year is kind of a windingdown, with lots of special programs and assemblies," Miller said.
One-third of the county's schools have air conditioning, Doyle said.But classes were canceled there as well to keep the buses running ontime.
Although the National Weather Bureau forecasts temperaturesin the high 80s throughout the week, Doyle said the board hopes to keep schools open.
Custodians will ventilate the schools throughoutthe night to cool them down, Doyle said.
Meanwhile, students found ways to cool themselves down.
More than 100 middle and high school students found their way to the Arundel Swim Center, the county's 3-year-old Olympic indoor swimming pool, by 1 p.m.
Others headed for the county's air-conditioned libraries.
Janet Kreps, manager ofthe Riviera Beach branch, said patrons always stampede the library after a holiday. But the rush started earlier than usual, she said.
A spokesman for North Arundel Hospital said it's important for adults working outdoors as well as children to take frequent breaks in theshade and drink plenty of fluids.
Over the public address system at Jacobsville, Miller cautioned students to stay out of the sun and encouraged his students to follow whatever emergency plans they madepreviously with their parents.