By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Public Schools sent letters to teachers and parents Wednesday saying the district is considering delaying the start of the school year by one week. DPS says returning to in-person learning on Aug. 24 will give teachers more time to prepare and mitigate some of the heat concerns.

Fifty-five DPS buildings do not have air conditioning.

(credit: CBS)

“For those schools that don’t have A/C, we’re much more likely to call for early release for heat or move to remote learning for days that are hot,” said Mark Ferrandino, Deputy Superintendent of Operations.

Ferrandino says the district’s proposed “staggered start” schedule could also provide some relief. With staggered start, schools would all begin virtually and phase in in-person attendance gradually.

“We’d phase in kids as they come in. We know that bodies in a room raise the temperature in a room,” said Ferrandino. “We’ll also have night purging. That gets the cool air into the building at night, then we’re able to shut the building so it’ll stay cool in the morning.”

Superintendent Susana Cordova says DPS is working on ways to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and contingency plans for possible outbreaks. DPS announced its spending $5 million on HVAC improvements to help with filtration and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms.

(credit: CBS)

“We have also developed plans with health officials to safely run a hybrid or fully in-person model as health data allows. And of course, every family will still have the opportunity to choose a fully virtual program,” Cordova added.

Aurora Public Schools has already decided to start a week late.

On Wednesday, APS announced a partnership with Gary Community Investments on a new platform called COVIDCheck Colorado. The online platform offers Aurora teachers a place to sign up for nearby COVID-19 testing, with rapid results.

DPS hopes to provide the same opportunity for its staff.

“We are in conversations with Gary Community and others in testing, similar to what Aurora has provided. We’re hopeful we can make an announcement soon about providing ongoing testing for school-based staff,” said Ferrandino, “Based on all the evidence, kids don’t seem to be a vector of spread for the virus.”

(credit: CBS)

After consulting with health partners, DPS believes that the current rate of spread in the community does allow them to continue forward with a plan for in-person learning. The district will continue monitor the ever-changing environment daily.

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“With face masks, with social distancing, health screenings and testing adults, we feel we can bring kids back into school in a safe environment,” said Ferrandino.
DPS expects to be able to share more details about these decisions on Monday.

You can read the full letter sent to parents here.

DPS parents are encouraged to review the Frequently Asked Questions on the DPS return to school webpage, and email questions and feedback to CoronavirusInfo@dpsk12.org.

Tori Mason

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