DPS: Task force to survey community about whether to delay first day of school to avoid heat

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With the temperature dropping outside, it's getting harder to remember when Denver's children were sweltering in their classrooms two months back. But Denver Public Schools hasn't forgotten. In fact, the district has launched a task force whose goal is to survey the community about whether to delay the first day of school until September to avoid the heat -- both literally and politically.

The DPS Start Date Task Force, comprised of parents, teachers and DPS staff, met for the first time last week. The group is expected to release a survey next week on the DPS homepage and the DPS Facebook page, asking the community (including parents, students, teacher and principals!) their thoughts about whether to push back the first day of school. This year, most DPS students were back in the classroom (and melting all over their math lessons) by August 18.

"The questions will be about how people feel about that, how it will affect them and the possible pros and cons of pushing it back," says DPS spokeswoman Kristy Armstrong.

The task force will analyze the results and present a final report to the school board on December 7. The board is expected to vote on the issue later that month, Armstrong says.

At least one board member has publicly called for a later start date; Andrea Merida drafted a resolution last month instructing the superintendent to present the board with a recommendation for "a new start date for the 2012-2013 school year that begins on a date after Labor Day." The board has not yet voted on the resolution.

But members have heard from the public already. Last month, a self-described "very quiet" stay-at-home mom named Stacy Davidor Smith presented the board with about 3,500 signatures on a pair of online petitions calling to delay the start of school. Those petitions have now gathered 5,528 signatures combined.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg has said he's open to discussing a later school start date, and he reiterated that point in one of his (impressive) e-mail newsletters to parents last week. "The board previously approved a calendar for the 2012-13 school year with a mid-August start date, but we remain open to the possibility of recommending a change to that calendar," said Boasberg, who does not have a vote on the board.

More from his newsletter:

There are several important factors to consider in thinking through potential adjustments to the school calendar including:

  • temperature trends/classroom conditions and their effect on learning and health
  • costs of cooling school buildings during very hot weather
  • semester breaks (a later start might push end-of-semester exams in high schools to after winter vacation)
  • school calendars in surrounding districts
  • potential impact on summer employment opportunities for our students and implications for school sports calendars

The task force will meet three more times before making its final report to the board. Those meetings dates are Wednesday, November 2 at 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday, November 30 at 5:30 p.m.; and Wednesday, December 7 at 5:30 p.m. All meetings will take place at DPS headquarters, 900 Grant Street.

Look below to see a list of task-force members provided by DPS.

Alenka Han, parent

Amy Grant, DPS secretary

David Smith, parent

Devin Dillon, principal

Heidi Robinson, parent

Hilary Thornham, parent

Jeannie Peppel, principal

John Appelhaus, teacher

Karen Higel, DPS athletics

Karen McGowen, parent

Kelly Causey, executive director of Mile High Youth Corps

Lani Kessler, parent

Lisa Pardo, parent

Mauro Choto, parent

Steven Farley, teacher

Teresa Halloway, parent

Stacy Smith, parent

More from our Education archives: "Emily Sirota on MSNBC to talk about 'America's Wildest School Board Race' (VIDEO)"

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