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This just in (parenthetical comments mine):

Dear Colleagues:

I would imagine that I’m not the only one who’s been haunted by a particular Cole Porter tune this week (apparently he has read this blog), and I know that those of you working in our older buildings without air conditioning are equally haunted by those three words: too darn hot.

I realize that this brutal stretch of record-setting heat has made it very difficult on the students and staff in our schools, and I just wanted to send a note this afternoon to thank you all for working through it and continuing the learning and service to our kids and their families. Beyond the instruction that you provide, our schools are also a critical source of nutrition and health services for many of our needy families, and those services take on extra importance during times of extreme weather.

I also want to thank our Facilities teams for their efforts to cool off classrooms. They are doing the best they can to help keep buildings as cool as possible, and that has included turning on the ventilation systems at night to draw in the cooler air and shutting them off the next morning before it gets hot, opening windows early in the morning to draw in some pre-dawn air, and providing box fans to circulate air in the most overheated buildings and areas. (Click here to watch a Channel 7 news story on how Carson Elementary School staff and parents are working together to make the school as comfortable as possible.)

As someone who used to teach in a no-A/C high school in 95-degree, 95%-humidity Hong Kong, I can relate to the concerns and frustrations this week of our parents and teachers. Right now, the forecast is calling for somewhat cooler temperatures next week, and I certainly hope that turns out to be the case.

There has been lots of talk this week about a couple of potential solutions to the problems posed when we have unusually high temperatures in late August. Most of what I’m hearing is a push to have air conditioning in all schools and a delay of the start of school until after Labor Day.

The last estimate we did, as part of our decision making on bond initiatives, put the cost of installing A/C in our older buildings at nearly $400 million. Given budget constraints, I think we’d all agree on the priority of other pressing financial needs.

I appreciate the idea of moving back the start of school until after Labor Day. As you know, this has been a topic of discussion for some years in the district. When we polled our employees in 2007, they were overwhelmingly against it. We tried again in 2008, when the Democratic National Convention in late August posed considerable logistical hurdles for an August start. Again, our teachers voted very strongly in favor of keeping the mid-August start rather than going to early September. As a parent (but not a Denver resident) and a DPS leader, I appreciate the merits of a September start date, but the surveys make clear our employees’ preference to continue to structure their summers around the school year ending in late-May end and starting again in mid-August. (Some of it may also be due to the fact that all our neighboring districts also start in mid-August.)

I would certainly be open to having another conversation about it. In the meantime, we are working hard with our facilities group at providing whatever relief we can in our classrooms and keeping our fingers crossed for next week.

Thank you again for your exceptional work this week, and I know we’re all ready for a break from the heat.


I’m not exactly sure which survey he’s talking about, but I’m getting the following comments from teachers, just today alone:

The heat is unbearable today.  After all these days of hot weather, the brick does not cool down at night.  I have fans going in my room but it is so unfair to the children and teachers.  Many parents expressed concern last night as well during our Back-to-School Night.

Expecting students to learn and be productive when my room is 95 degrees is not realistic even though they try very hard!

and another

Hi Ms Merida
I wanted to let you know that room temperatures at Kepner Middle School during this last week and a half have been between 85 and 95 degrees. I would like to invite you to come into the school and feel the heat the students are expected to learn and teachers expected to teach in. Please come in after 1:00.

The good news is that the Superintendent is not the “decider.” The board is. More to come.

Baby, it's STILL hot inside