The heat is on, literally and figuratively, for Poudre School District, which was forced to close classes last week 2 hours early on Wednesday and Thursday, September 7 and 8, due to temperatures in the high-90’s and a lack of air-conditioning units within the district’s school buildings, leaving many in the community with frustrating questions.
According to a news release issued by the district, most of PSD schools do not have air conditioning, with some having AC only in certain locations, for instance computer lab or media centers. While PSD announced they had made efforts to cool classrooms down by opening school doors earlier in the mornings to draw cool air in before closing them for the first bell, as well as buying fans for all classrooms, those efforts were not enough to combat last week’s forecasted high temperatures, which PSD said often resulted in classroom temperatures reaching the high-80s to 90s.
In the news release, PSD said they’re currently working through the process of obtaining cost estimates and timelines for air-conditioning installation in all schools, but that it is multi-million-dollar project that’s anticipated to take at least several years to complete and will likely require support from voters in the future. With temperatures continuing to rise on a yearly basis, PSD stated they feel despite cost and time, it’s an important step for the district.
CSU Professor Director and Climatologist Russ Schumacher said that while Northern Colorado has seen a trend of increasing temperatures leading into fall, it’s hard to know for sure if these trends are to be expected as the new normal.
“We’ve definitely seen within the last five years or so a lot of heat in September that was very rare for the month historically. Of the top 12 warmest days in September, in the history of the Fort Collins Weather Station, 11 of those days have been since 2013 and 10 of them have been since 2017, so we’ve had repeated September heatwaves and that’s obviously after school begins in the fall,” Russ said. “I’m not exactly sure if we should necessarily be counting on this happening every single year going forward but there has been a trend for the kinds of temperatures that we usually associate with a hot summer day extending now into September.”
Russ also said that as we proceed into the fall, it becomes harder to continue reaching higher temperatures such as mid to high 90’s as parts of Northern Colorado have seen so far this September, however, the consistency in trends are still concerning even if exact predictions can’t be made moving forward.
“I’m not sure we should be expecting 95+ temperatures in late September, but that being said, the fall season as a whole has been warming and it’s the fastest warming season at least in the last 40 years in Northern Colorado,” Russ said “So, on the one hand the sun angle going down as we get into the fall does limit how hot we can get later into the fall we go, but we’ve certainly seen early September getting a lot warmer and just this fall in general becoming warmer, as well.”
Russ added that last week was the end of extreme heat in the forecast and Northern Colorado would be seeing a cold front moving in shortly after, but that even still, the temperatures were still going to be higher than typically expected for this time of year.
“Today (9/8/22) is the last day of the really extreme heat, the cold front is going to come through tonight and tomorrow and then Saturday will be quite a bit cooler, so I don’t think we’re going to be back to these upper 90’s temperatures again I don’t think, but it is going to warm back up again in the next week, the cool down is only going to last for a couple of days,” Russ said. “It’s likely only going to reach into the 80’s as opposed to the upper 90’s, but still, above average for this time of the year.”
According to PSD, of their 55 schools, including PSD-authorized charters, 33 (about 60%) do not have air conditioning, which is a mixture of elementary, middle, and high schools, and the Calendar Committee continues to examine the additional changes that should be made to future school year calendars in response to overheated classrooms.
PSD said in the same news release that the issue of no air-conditioning is not unlike an issue other school districts in Northern Colorado and along the Front Range are facing, as well. PSD further stated that as part of past bond and mill levy override requests, they have prioritized the construction of new schools and needed updates to existing schools, such as the replacement of decades-old carpet, roofs and boilers, the installation of inclusive playground equipment or upgrades to fire alarm and other security systems, but at the same time they remain engaged in a Request for Proposal (RFP) to eventually secure the installation of air conditioning in all of their schools, though, as they’ve stated, that process should be expected to be considerably lengthy and likely involve community support.