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At least 28 DPS schools to release students early due to hot weather

At least 28 schools in Denver Public Schools will release early over the coming days to avoid keeping kids in hot classrooms during a forecasted heat wave.

DENVER — More than 30 schools within Denver Public Schools (DPS) will shift their classroom schedules over the coming days to keep children out of hot classrooms during the forecasted extreme heat.  

Some schools without air conditioning will have early-release "Heat Days" Wednesday and Thursday, sending students home early before the afternoon heat sets in. Three schools will close entirely. 

As students left McAuliffe Middle School around 1:30 Tuesday, it was as hot outside as it was in the classroom. Administrators warned it could reach 90 degrees on the third floor of the building. 

"This is not an environment that is safe nor conducive to teaching and learning," a post on the school's website said. 

"I sweat like everywhere," seventh grader Zmarra Fleming said after school let out. "It was hard to concentrate. It was really hard to concentrate."

DPS was supposed to install air conditioning at McAuliffe and nine other schools over the summer, but the district's facilities manager, Trena Marsal, said global supply chain disruptions interfered. 

"It's very frustrating, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that projects are completed," Marsal said. "We do work with our vendors to possibly come in at night once we receive that equipment to make sure we can get the buildings up and running."

Marsal said the district deploys portable air conditioning units and fans in rooms without air conditioning. At night, she said, they do a "purge" of the warm air inside the building and try to suck in cooler air through open windows. 

"We're just trying to cool them as much as possible," Marsal said. "It can hamper learning if it gets too hot in the space."

If temperatures reach above 86 degrees inside, school administrators are supposed to consider mitigation measures -- including sending students home early. But that early release can cause problems for parent pickup.

"It's very frustrating," McAuliffe parent Stephanie Bates said. "I can't imagine what parents who don't have flexibility in their schedules do." 

On Tuesday, buses did not run early at McAuliffe, leaving dozens of students to wait hours at the hot school. A DPS spokesperson said the district's transportation division was honoring all bus requests from schools.

DPS said these three schools will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday:

  • Barret Elementary
  • Columbine Elementary
  • Knapp Elementary

For days the heat inside Skinner Middle School has been brutal. Opening the windows for a slight breeze wasn't enough. 

"I will send him two or three water bottles and ice. We bought the insulated water bottles," said Desiree Padilla, a parent of a 6th grader. 

Padilla tried to help her son stay cool. It's a bit of a challenge when classrooms are reaching 90 degrees. A teacher from a different DPS school shared a picture with 9News showing a thermometer recoding 90 degrees inside.

Credit: 9NEWS Viewer

"One idea we had is keeping our son home," Padilla said. "I understand things come up and happen but I definitely wish we had more heads up, little more notice."

Skinner Middle School is letting kids out at 11 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday which left some parents scrambling to figure out pick up. 

"We have three kids in DPS so it is figuring out three different schedules, three different kids, three different schools," she said. 

In 2019 – DPS said 55 schools didn't have air conditioning. Denver voters approved a bond the following year that helps install AC in 24 of them. Skinner Middle School is still thanking voters for funding some upgrades with a sign in the front of campus but the school didn't make the cut for AC. 

These 29 schools will be released early Wednesday and Thursday because of the high heat: 

Elementary schools

  • Denison Montessori
  • Asbury Elementary
  • Cory Elementary
  • Cowell Elementary
  • Park Hill Elementary
  • Stedman Elementary
  • Ellis Elementary
  • Bradley Elementary
  • Sabin World School
  • Steele Elementary
  • Bryant-Webster Elementary
  • McMeen Elementary
  • Polaris Elementary
  • Traylor Elementary
  • Goldrick Elementary
  • MSLA - Rishel Campus
  • Doull Elementary
  • Whittier ECE-8
  • University Park Elementary
  • Carson Elementary
  • Math and Science Leadership Academy - Rishel

Middle schools

  • Lake Middle
  • McAuliffe International
  • Skinner Middle School
  • West Middle

High Schools

  • Manual High
  • Thomas Jefferson High
  • George Washington High
  • West High

Denver Montessori will only dismiss early on Thursday.

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