Denver school board approves school-start date of late August, seeks heat-days plan
posted by: Guest Blogger
A calendar pushing Denver Public Schools’ start date later by a handful of days was approved by the Board of Education on Thursday night.
“Changing the school start date is not going to be the solution for the heat, we all know that,” said board member Anne Rowe. “What it did do, I think, is set the stage for a much larger discussion around the school year, with regards to how that works in the best interest for students. That is a robust discussion.”
Superintendent Tom Boasberg was asked to commit to presenting the board with a plan for issuing heat days, which would work in the same way as snow days, by the board’s March meeting.
The calendar option approved in a 6-1 vote will have students starting school on Aug. 27 and ending June 4. That calendar would see a later winter break — from Monday, Dec. 24, returning to class Jan. 8 — and would shrink no-contact days, when teachers evaluate assessment data, to three days in the year.
During a discussion Thursday prior to the vote, board members considered various amendments to the calendars and weighed issues of sport schedules, test-preparation time and day care as they would be affected by the calendar changes.
Board member Andrea Merida, who voted against the calendar, attempted first to introduce an amendment to allow schools without air conditioning to choose their own start dates anytime up to Labor Day. That amendment failed with only Merida approving it.
In a public-comment session before the vote, four student representatives of the district’s student board of education talked about their preference for a calendar year to start Aug. 23.
The student board members conducted a poll at various high schools asking students about their preferences.
According to their poll, 75 percent of students wanted to start Aug. 23, compared with 11 percent who would have liked school to start after Labor Day.
A heat wave that coincided with the beginning of this school year in mid-August left students and teachers dealing with 90-degree heat in classrooms without air conditioning.
At least three incidents of heat-
related illness were reported in the first week of school.
Parents had gathered and delivered more than 3,000 signatures asking DPS to start the school year after Labor Day.
DPS then created a task force of parents and teachers to design and distribute a survey that was available online for nearly three weeks in November.
Respondents were almost evenly split among three options: no changes, starting in the fourth week of August, and starting in the first week of September.
In other board action, three new schools received innovation status for their opening this fall. Also, Trevista ECE-8 was approved to begin a turnaround — in which a new principal will be hired, staff will have to reapply for their jobs, and the school will get additional federal funds and flexibilities to design a program for improvement.