Not cool for school: One year ago this week, a group of Denver Public Schools parents and teachers, frustrated by brutally hot end-of-summer weather that included a couple of 100-degree-plus days, created a campaign and petition called It's Too Darn Hot to Learn, in an effort to convince DPS to delay the start of the school year by a week or two.
"We understand the pressures for higher test scores create a desire for more preparation time," the petition read. "But a comfortable learning environment should be an important consideration. Are we getting much out of this advanced start time? Hot and thirsty children do not learn particularly well. We urge the DPS Board of Education and Superintendent Tom Boasberg to change DPS's start date in order for the academic year to begin after Labor Day."
The campaign worked, mostly; the majority of DPS schools started on August 27 this year, about a week later than in 2011, though not after Labor Day. And although Denver smashed its twelve-year-old record for days above 90 degrees this summer — including a couple of scorchers during the first week of school — things haven't been as bad as they were last year, says Henry Roman, president of the Classroom Teachers Association. "You can still sense the heat, but it's not as intense as it was last year. I think the fact that the start of the year has been delayed by one week helped a little bit. Nonetheless, you still have many buildings out there that do not have air conditioning, about 40 percent of them. So there is still some work that needs to be done."
That work may come in the form of a $466 million bond initiative that the Denver Public Schools Board approved on August 23 and will place on the November ballot. Although the board knocked out $500,000 that had been earmarked for air-cooling systems, there is still $230 million designated for repairs or renovations that will address health and safety issues — like cooling systems. "The cost of air conditioners was too high, but I think there will be more schools that will get something in between — swamp coolers or better ways of managing ventilation," Roman says.
Will it be enough? Maybe not. A question posed on the Too Darn Hot to Learn Facebook page this week reads: "Are you ready for Round 2?"