DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Public Schools is considering a delayed start to the school year, according to a letter sent to the DPS community Wednesday. One reason? Reducing the number of days students will spend in classrooms during the August heat.
It’s an issue officials deal with every year, with 55 DPS schools still lacking air conditioning. Many rely on window units and portable swamp coolers to stay cool for the first few weeks of the school year, but this year, that won’t be an option.
According to the district, those units won’t be allowed this year, citing concerns they could worsen the spread of COVID-19.
“Due to the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, devices such as portable fans, window air conditioning and portable cooling units that may blow air across the room will not be permitted. It has been advised that these types of devices may pose a risk of promulgating the spread.”
“I just have a concern about the kids over-heating and being uncomfortable, and that being distracting,” said Liz Parker. Parker’s 6-year-old daughter is set to be a first-grader at Teller Elementary, and at this point, she’s planning to send her for in-person classes.
Parker says hot classrooms could make kids less inclined to wear masks. “It’s another reason for them to slip their mask down, or for them not to want to wear it, so that’s a big concern too,” she says.
DPD Deputy Superintendent Mark Ferrandino says parents at schools without AC should be prepared for schedule adjustments. “We will be much more likely to call either early release for heat, or move to remote learning for those days that are hot,” says Ferrandino.
Ferrandino says the district will try to make classrooms as cool as possible at night before students return in the morning. They’ll regularly check temperatures and dismiss students if they reach uncomfortable levels.
“We can do what we call night-purging, basically get the cool air into the building at night, then shut the building so it stays cool in the morning,” he says. The district is also considering staggered learning, in which only a certain number of students will be in the classroom or building on a given day.
“We know that bodies in a room raise the temperature in a room. If you have less bodies in a room, that will reduce the increase of that temperature from what we were able to cool it to at night,” Ferrandino says.