THE COLORADOAN - Students and teachers across Poudre School District hunkered down against the continuing summer heat on Tuesday, but the superintendent says she's not inclined to cancel school again due to the heat.
Tuesday was the first day back after a first-ever "heat day" prompted the cancellation of classes Friday. It was temporary relief from two weeks of constant hot days, said Danielle Clark, PSD spokeswoman wrote in an email to the Coloradoan.
"As we move through this week and next, (Superintendent Sandra) Smyser has indicated she is not inclined to close schools again for heat," Clark said.
Lower daytime temperatures, humidity and nighttime temperatures are keeping buildings from heating up to the degree they had in the past two weeks, she said.
On Tuesday, building managers shut off lights, handed out water, plugged in fans and crossed their fingers that this week's temperatures would remain below the 90s they saw last week before classes were halted.
At Webber Middle School in Fort Collins, the building's temperature started out in the mid-70s on Tuesday morning, rising into the mid-80s by 2 p.m., Principal Sandy Bickel said. She said that's improvement over the 90-degree temperatures inside the building last week. Bickel said staff turned on the ventilation system at 4 a.m. Tuesday to draw in cool air, and then closed off the building once the outside temperatures rose.
"We have our hallway lights almost totally off. Maybe it's psychological, but it feels cooler because it's darker," she said from the school, where snowflakes hung from the front office ceiling, a measure of "good spirit." "And we've at least got some air movement."
Similar scenarios played out across the district on Tuesday. Nine of 50 PSD schools are fully air-conditioned, while 32 are partially air conditioned (mostly in computer labs and modular buildings). A dozen, including Webber, have tempered air, thanks to new heating and ventilation systems paid for with 2010 bond dollars. But 25 schools have no cooling at all in areas other than computer labs, music rooms and some offices.
Furthrmore, the school district can't accept window air conditioning units due to security concerns, safety hazards and state building codes, Clark said.
At Harris Bilingual Elementary, lights were switched off Tuesday, shades on windows were drawn, and water bottles dotted desks left empty as children played at recess.
Principal Luis Camas took readings in his classrooms last week and found one first-grade classroom to be the hottest, at 86 degrees. Different parts of the building are warmer or cooler than others, and some teachers moved class down to the media center the only part of the Elizabeth Street school that's air-conditioned.
"It's hot, hot, hot," he said, adding that it seems this year has been warmer over a longer duration of time.
A few miles away at Timnath Elementary, temperatures were a little cooler in the classrooms Tuesday than last week. But it was still warm enough to warrant one fan or five in each classroom. Many were brought in by parents, including Joy Murphy, who delivered six fans last week to be used in each of her three children's classrooms.
The bad thing with fans, however, is that they're hard to speak over, teachers agreed. And only those children directly in a fan's path benefit from the cool air. Not to mention, they have to weight papers down so they don't fly away.
Piecing together a paper clock, third-grader Ryder Atkinson, 8, wore a wet blue washcloth around his neck. Water soaked into his gray tank-top, but he didn't mind, nodding his head in agreement when asked if it was doing its job.
In another class, kids who just returned from PE complained about sweat running down their faces. Nearly all had water bottles on their desks.
Children are coming prepared to school to learn, but it's difficult in the heat, teachers said. It's not that their attitudes are bad, but high temperatures mean red faces and lethargy.
"We are not getting as much learning done," said D.J. Sedey, a fourth-grade teacher.
Last week, fourth-grade teacher Melissa Martine had her students write a bio poem. One question they had to answer was: How are you feeling?
And the answer?
"I think every kid wrote hot," she said.
So what's the solution?
Superintendent Sandra Smyser is putting together a team of people to look at long-term fixes. Some, including Murphy, think an after-Labor Day start is definitely worth considering. Others suggested half-day classes, or ceiling fans.
All ideas are on the table, Smyser said last week. Landing on a final solution is a little trickier.
"There is not a clear-cut answer," Martine said. "The buildings just need to be cooler."
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