LOVELAND, Colo. (KDVR) — Temperatures reached into the 90s inside classrooms at Bill Reed Middle School in Loveland Wednesday afternoon.
A science classroom, which is not currently in use by students, showed a temperature of 91 degrees around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The school’s music room, which is regularly used during the school day, was 89 degrees.
The temperature readings were taken within 30 minutes of students leaving the school. They were dismissed two hours early because of the excessive heat.
“A lot of our buildings are older. They were built in the 1950s, and so while they’re super efficient in terms of trapping in cool air and taking advantage of some of the efficiencies of nighttime temperatures, they still heat up really quickly,” Thompson School District Superintendent Marc Schaffer said.
About half of the district’s school buildings are not fully air-conditioned. Many only have partial cooling systems, which are located in additions or newly constructed areas of older schools. Some schools have no air conditioning at all.
“While we can handle the one-off or single day, and it still creates very uncomfortable situations, I think the unique part here is just the number of days that we’ve had that are pushing a hundred,” Schaffer said.
How can Colorado’s hot classrooms be cooled?
According to Schaffer, the district would be open to discussions about the school year starting later. However, he acknowledges there are logistical challenges in doing so, including calendars not aligning with neighboring districts for school sports and competitions.
He said retrofitting the schools for air conditioning is not feasible.
“The price tag is $80 million. And so that’s the cost to air condition or to retrofit our schools and that’s a lot of money, and we don’t have $80 million, so we’re looking at other mitigation techniques,” Schaffer said.
The district is exploring options including adding shade trees and awnings to protect the building from direct sunlight, installing portable cooling units in individual classrooms and using industrial fans to help move air.
“It is a 4-to-6-week issue so we certainly are not talking about air cooling in October or November, but it is a real issue for the first opening six weeks of the school year,” Schaffer said.