DENVER – More than a dozen schools within Denver Public Schools are either on half days or closed Thursday or Friday because of heat, with temperatures expected to reach the mid-to-upper 90s.
McCeen Elementary School and Traylor Academy are closed Thursday, while Cory Elementary, Stephen Knight Center for Early Education, Merrill Middle School and Denison Montessori are on half days. Early childhood education is closing in the afternoon at Knapp Elementary.
The schools that are either closed or on half days due to the heat Friday, according to Jones, are:
- McCeen Elementary School — Closed
- Polaris Elementary School — Closed
- Hamilton Middle School — Closed
- Traylor Academy — Closed
- Brown International Academy — Half Day
- Doull Elementary School — Half Day
- Manual High School — Half Day
- Stedman Elementary School — Half Day
- Asbury Elementary School — Half Day
- Cory Elementary School — Half Day
- Denison Montessori — Half Day
- Lincoln Elementary School — Half Day
- Merrill Middle School — Half Day
- Steele Elementary School — Half Day
- Stephen Knight Center for Early Education — Half Day
- Thomas Jefferson High School — Half Day
- Knapp Elementary School — Early Childhood Education closing in the afternoon
"I understand this is short notice, an inconvenience for many of our families, and that childcare may be an issue for some," Thomas Jefferson High School Principal Mike Christoff said in an email to families at TJHS. "I am available to answer questions you may have regarding the early-release Heat Day. Transportation has been notified and students utilizing DPS-provided transportation will be picking students up at 12 p.m. tomorrow."
Heather Bock, the director of construction for DPS said the closure decisions were made to put the students and staff first in order to foster a better learning environment.
The district has a team of heat mitigation liaisons that works at each school without air conditioning that monitor temperatures in schools throughout the day to establish typical highs and lows within the buildings. The district also conducts a heat study each year from August through October.
“Having that understanding of what the heat impact is to the schools helps us determine when or if we have to have schools close for a moment or look at remote learning,” Bock said.
Fifty DPS schools do not have air conditioning currently, though the district said this spring six more schools would be getting it installed this year and up to 25 more could be getting it in starting 2022. Bock said Thursday that five of those six schools had their air conditioning installed this summer and the last project would be finished next year.
By the end of 2023, 24 of the other air conditioning projects will be complete, Bock said. She said the biggest challenge in installing air conditioning across the district's schools was trying to modify buildings that are up to 100 years old while being respectful to the architecture.
Jennifer Anderson, the principal at Grant Beacon Middle School, which was one of the schools that had A/C installed this summer, said early dismissals also involve considerations over transportation, lunches, and the different facilities on various campuses.
“If we’re going to close down a building, it’s bigger than ‘it’s just hot,’” she said.
She said she was thankful to have the new A/C system at the school.
“It’s hard work without having to do the work in the heat,” she said. “The heat adds a layer to our teaching staff, which causes fatigue and burnout. We need teachers in buildings. Students too, it adds a level of fatigue.”
Near-record-high temperatures are expected in Denver on Thursday and Friday that are likely to top out in the upper 90s.
Asbury Elementary also had to have an early release on Aug. 27 because of high temperatures and dust from nearby construction. In addition to not have air conditioning, Jones said earlier this month that the school does not have the electrical capacity to bring in portable air units.