New addition of Slavens K-8 experiencing heating problems after $4 million renovation

Principal: 'This is a high priority issue'

DENVER - The new $4 million addition to the Slavens K-8 school in Denver has become too cool for school.

"We have a little tiny polar vortex in the fifth grade classroom, the music room and the gym," said fifth grade parent Deren Abram.

In 2012, Denver voters approved a $466 million bond issue for renovations of Denver Public Schools. Slavens received $4 million in renovations; a new wing, including a new gymnasium and classrooms. Even $40,000 was spent etching designs in the four-square playground.

Yet, a heating problem in the new building has caused fifth graders to have to move their classrooms depending on the temperature. It's been an issue since before winter break.

"DPS was great in helping us out and making the bond measure pass, and it's been long overdue, but I'd just like for it to come with heat," said Abram.

"We've never really seen our own breath in class, but it's been really cold," said Abram's son Ben, a fifth grader. "We have to switch classrooms. We'll go up into the teachers' lounge or up in the Spanish classroom."

Photos of the teachers' lounge shows what used to be a classroom, with desks and a chalkboard. The lounge, however, also has a kitchen table, refrigerator and a pop machine.

"The teachers' lounge is filled with a bunch of couches and it's hard to learn in there because a bunch of teachers are coming in and out of there to get their stuff," said Ben. "It gets really annoying having to switch classrooms all the time."

"Monday morning, just before the kids came back to school, one of the teachers reported that she walked into the fifth grade classroom and she could actually see her breath; hovering somewhere around 40 degrees," said Deren.

7NEWS reached out to Denver Public Schools to find out what's causing the problem. The district still does not know how to fix the issue.

On Wednesday afternoon, Slavens principal Kurt Siebold sent the following letter to parents:

"Slavens Parents, While we have enjoyed the additional classroom and learning spaces that were needed and provided by the Phase I and Phase II addition, we have experienced some challenges as well. When the heating upgrades were made for our addition, these were designed to accommodate Phase I and Phase II. Last year, we had some issues with heat because only Phase I was completed. However, Phase II was completed this past summer, and we have continued to experience some heating problems at times in a few of our new spaces—classrooms, the music room, and the gym. We are working with the DPS Facilities Management team to address this issue and in the short term are doing everything we can to ensure students have comfortable learning environments. Please know that student safety and providing a quality learning environment is our top priority. This is a high-priority issue that is actively being worked on, and we expect it to be resolved very soon.

"For those of you whose students have been impacted, I apologize. Thanks for your understanding as we work to get a permanent fix to this heating situation."

"Sometimes it's pretty unpredictable because this morning we had to move, but then this afternoon it warmed up, so you really can't predict it," said fifth grader Jonas Shofler.

He described how kids are constantly bundled up during school.

"You could not tell the difference between the kids that were going on (a) field trip and kids that were staying in the classrooms," said Shofler.

School has not been canceled because of the heating problems.

"I don't know that school really needs to be canceled, but I think it just needs to be fixed. They had plenty of time to fix it. They had the entire semester last semester and they had a big two week break," said Deren. "It's not rocket science, just fix the problem."

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