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Parents frustrated over Denver school closures prompted by heat wave

More than 30 schools in Denver released students early or closed completely due to heat Wednesday, Thursday
School classroom
Posted at 4:16 PM, Sep 07, 2022

DENVER — A heat wave is causing a disruption in learning for several students in Colorado this week.

Dozens of schools across the Denver metro area let kids out early or canceled classes completely Wednesday and Thursday because they don't have access to air conditioning.

This is leaving parents, like Emily Holben Walker, frustrated and scrambling for child care at the last minute.

"It's really just not OK," she said. "Because in Denver, we continue to support our schools. We continue to vote up bond measure after bond measure after bond measure, and the same problems continue to go unsolved. And with only excuses for answers from the district. And really, who's really paying the price are our children."

Parents frustrated over Denver school closures prompted by heat wave

Her kids attend Bradley International School in Denver — one of more than 30 schools forced to shut down early.

"So many families don't have options," Walker said. "There are so many people who don't have PTO — they don't have paid time-off. They don't have flexible work schedules or the option to work from home. So, what are these kids and their families doing? Is anyone home? Are they safe?"

While some schools let kids out early, other campuses canceled school completely because of the heat.

In 2020, Denver voters approved a bond that would provide air conditioning to 24 of the 55 schools that didn't have it. Since then, six campuses had air conditioning installed in 2021 but the rest have been delayed because of supply chain issues.

Walker said her children's school did not make the list.

"It's a wonderful school, but they were not one of the schools that's slated to get AC," she added.

Walker is asking the district for more transparency when it comes to how it's spending taxpayer dollars.

Denver7 took her concerns to DPS school officials.

"We dedicated $795 million through the 2020 bond to various needs," said Trena Marsal, executive director of facility management. "So part of that was maintenance. We had several campus renovations and improvements throughout the district. There was also, you know, the $128.5 million that was dedicated to air conditioning."

Marsal said DPS has a Bond Oversight Committee that oversees how the district spends funds.

"They actually review how we spend the funds, ensuring that we're dedicating those funds to the approved scopes that the taxpayers voted for. On our DPS website, there is a link to how funds are being spent and the projects that they're dedicated to," she said.

While the district said it understands parents' concerns, funding still has to be secured for all schools to get air conditioning. The timeframe for when that will be complete is still unknown.

"We are focusing on ensuring that all of our schools are comfortable and that we're providing a quality learning environment for our students. We will continue to look for ways to possibly fund air conditioning in the future and to ensure that all of our school's needs are met," Marsal said.

Walker said she is hoping her kids won't have to wait long.

"I do think that there's light at the end of the tunnel, because we can get AC in our schools. We can have climate control. Our kids can be comfortable, so that they can learn and be safe," she said.