Tonight, Stacy Davidor Smith will take her crusade to delay the start of public school in Denver until September to the school board (which will also be taking feedback on its proposal to prevent board members' overspending). Smith plans to present nearly 3,500 signatures gathered on two separate online petitions in an attempt to persuade the board to see the light -- and help schoolkids avoid the heat.
For Smith, it all started when she came back from a vacation she took during DPS's first week of school in sweltering mid-August. Smith's mother, who had been taking care of her six-year-old son and seventeen-year-old daughter, said she was appalled that DPS would hold school in such oppressively hot weather. "My son was hot, red-faced, sweaty, cranky, the whole bit," Smith recalls. "She said, 'This isn't okay.'"
Smith didn't think too much of it until she woke up a few days later to find her son crying in his bedroom. The Brown Elementary first-grader said he didn't want to go to school because it made him sick. "I said, 'I've got to do something about this,'" Smith says.
A self-described "very quiet" stay-at-home mom, Smith decided to start a petition on the website change.org. Another mom, who has remained anonymous, had the same idea. As of this writing, they've collected a combined 3,370 signatures.
"I feel that in the first two or three weeks kids are in school, how can they be learning anyway?" Smith says, referring to the heat, which she says reached between 95 and 105 degrees in her son's classroom. "You put your kid in a sauna with a schoolbook and think they're going to learn? I don't think so."
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She adds, "It comes back to the health and safety of our children."
In a letter to parents in late August, DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said he's open to discussing delaying the start of school until September. "I appreciate the idea of moving back the start of school until after Labor Day," he wrote.
Tonight, Smith will test whether the school board is open to that idea, too. If not, she says she plans to keep trying until they are. "Everyone thinks now that the weather has cooled down, people will forget about this," she says. "But I'm not." If need be, she promises to be at the next board meeting and the next, petition in hand. "I want to be sure people understand that this is not laid to rest," she says.
More from our Education archives: "Denver Public Schools back-to-cool supplies: Kenny Be's Hip Tip."