DENVER — We knew it was hot inside Denver schools without air conditioning last week. Now we know just how hot.
Internal Denver Public Schools district data, obtained through a 9NEWS public records request, shows classrooms in the 90s and sometimes warmer than the air outside.
The heat started early – before students even arrived at some schools. Staff checked the temperature at Denver's West High School and recorded two classrooms -- one at 86 degrees and the other at 85 degrees.
The spreadsheet of temperature data, part of the district's heat mitigation plan, also includes comments from staff members. "Classrooms are getting really hot," one wrote on Tuesday morning. "No kids yet [...] hot already," wrote another.
Over the course of the day, it just got worse inside the schools without AC. By 2 p.m., a South High School classroom measured 95 degrees. George Washington High School's gym reached 98 degrees. Administrators canceled that night's games because of the heat, the spreadsheet indicated.
Students remained in class Tuesday, but the district sent kids home early Wednesday and Thursday as the temperatures continued to climb. A district spokesperson said he doesn't know of any students who got sick, but said he had heard about some who struggled to cool off after recess outside. School staff gave them cold compresses and suggested they stand in front of fans.
"To be exercising in warm temperatures is almost a setup for heat-related illness, particularly if you're talking about temperatures in the upper 90s," 9NEWS Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli said.
She said it's especially dangerous for younger children who are less able to detect that they're getting too hot.
"Kids regulate their body temperature a little less efficiently than adults, so they’re at higher risk for heat-related illness," Kohli said.
Beyond the heat's physical effects, she said warm temperatures like those recorded inside DPS schools make it tough for kids to concentrate – and can affect their behavioral and emotional health.
"It can affect our emotional health and it can also affect our ability to learn," Kohli said. "Some of those effects can really be cumulative over time, so it’s not that particular day and your risk on that day, but what an exposure over several weeks, months or years translates into when it comes to your social development, your emotional development and your behavioral development."
In a statement, the DPS spokesperson said, "DPS is always concerned with extreme temperatures and the safety of our students and staff – whether too hot or too cold. We will always take extra precautions when faced with extreme temperatures in order to keep everyone safe."
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