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Our Word is Our Bond, Special Third Edition: AC + Cooling

It was a busy summer for DPS' Planning, Design, and Construction team!

Summer is the busiest time of year for our Planning, Design, and Construction team here at Denver Public Schools. While students and teachers take a well deserved break for the season, our construction team and our contractors kick it into overdrive! The summer is the perfect time to complete bond construction projects across our 200+ schools. When we work in summer, students and staff do not have to suffer through the loud sounds and congestion that accompany building and renovation, and our project managers and contractors can get projects done swiftly, efficiently, safely, and without interruption to the learning process.

So, what projects were completed this summer?!

All types of construction projects across the district were worked on this summer, using Denver voter-approved bond dollars! For the purposes of this special edition of Our Word is Our Bond: a Bond and Mill Levy District Newsletter, we will be focusing on air conditioning and cooling in schools.

For a snapshot of other bond projects completed this summer, check out this video highlighting Oakland Elementary, 1 of 8 schools who received a full irrigation system replacement as part of a bond-funded irrigation bundle!

Our Word is Our Bond

Our Word is Our Bond is an informational resource delivered to our DPS stakeholders, both internal and external, highlighting the efforts of our district to uphold the promises made during the most recent and relevant bond cycle(s).

In this newsletter, you can expect status updates on our current bond construction projects and information on Mill Levy overrides and the ways in which they have benefitted our district. This newsletter will also share details on our Bond Oversight Committee and how its members work to serve our district.

24 DPS schools were selected to receive air conditioning and cooling upgrades as part of the 2020 bond package

In 2019, using both a heat and an equity index, a composite ranking list was created. This list helped determine the prioritization of a total of 55 schools who were without AC across the district. In 2020, a bond package passed and thanks to Denver voters, the first 24 schools on the list were given the necessary funding for AC upgrades.

The ranking for prioritization was determined by both a heat and an equity index.

The Equity Index is based on 3 sets of criteria: percentage of students classified as special education learners, percentage of students receiving free & reduced lunch, and the degree of volatility in conjunction with the Heat Index.

The Heat Index was developed through the DPS Planning, Design, and Construction team. The team measures the temperature of classrooms in buildings without cooling, and from that data develops an index of the hottest schools.

Since the passing of the bond in 2020, we have spent $80 million dollars on school AC and cooling upgrades. By the end of our scheduled upgrades, we are forecasted to spend $129 million.

As of 9/1/2023, all of the schools scheduled to receive their AC upgrades in 2023 have had their projects completed, bringing the total number of schools completed out of the bond package to 17.

17 schools out of the 24 schools identified in 2020 have received AC upgrades. The remaining 7 schools from the 2020 package will have their upgrades completed in 2024.

Schools that now have air conditioning:

Force [Force Elementary School] Grant [Grant Beacon Middle School]

Smith [Smith Elementary School] Valverde [Valverde Elementary School]

Fairview [Fairview Elementary School] Hallett [Hallett Academy]

Merrill [Merrill Middle School] Ashley [Ashley Elementary School]

Smedley [Denver Montessori Junior/Senior High School and Denver Online High School]

West High School [West High School] Manual [Manual High School]

Denison [Denison Montessori School] Fallis [Denver Green School Southeast]

Smiley [Mcauliffe International School] Rishel [KIPP Denver Collegiate High School]

Columbine [Columbine Elementary School] Knapp [Knapp Elementary School]

Schools to receive air conditioning in 2024:

Ebert [Polaris elementary] Carson [Mary G Carson Elementary School]

Cowell [Cowell Elementary School] Sabin [Sabin World Elementary School]

Jefferson [Thomas Jefferson High School] Stedman [Stedman Elementary School]

Steele [Steele Elementary School]

The remaining schools excluded from the 2020 bond package that are without AC and without AC funding are of great importance to DPS, and we are actively seeking future funding opportunities.

For more information on heat mitigation measures, the composite ranking system and the current AC project schedule, please review our Air conditioning FAQ and subscribe to our bond and mill levy newsletter.

West High School's "Chill Together, Win Together" event

DPS hosted a community-centered celebration to spotlight the hard work of the Planning, Design, and Construction team over the summer. The very special occasion took place at the historic West High School, a few days after their AC and cooling upgrades were completed.

"Behind me is West High School, a historic building that was home to many Denver Public School alumni over the years, spanning almost a century," said Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero, "Today you will hear from West’s present day leaders, about what these AC and cooling upgrades mean for their school, for their students day to day experience in the classroom, and why it is of vital importance to continue to invest in public education."

DPS celebrated the project's success with free ice cream, yard games, and a resource fair to meet the needs of community members in attendance. The Denver Fire Department also was on the scene with a fire hose for the children to cool off with. The contractors on the West project, Adolfson and Peterson construction, led facility tours to interested guests who wanted to "chill" in the new air conditioning! Stay cool, Cowboys!

Historic Polaris Elementary will finish retrofit work on AC upgrades in 2024

We checked in on the air conditioning upgrades happening at Polaris Elementary School this summer. Polaris Elementary is located in a historic building, and while there is nothing quite like a beautiful well-kept historic building, they do require a lot of TLC.

Polaris' air conditioning and cooling upgrades require retrofitting, a process that can take some extra time, and in this case involves a top down process. Learn more about the process from our partners at HPM contracting, and hear a special "thank you" message from school leader Adrienne Lopez in this construction progress report video!

Denison Montessori School produces carbon free energy with new green AC upgrades!

We traveled to Denison Montessori to learn about the air conditioning and cooling upgrade process underway at their school. We brought along Adam West, Energy Engineer from our DPS sustainability team to speak to us about our climate action policy and the measures we've taken to ensure climate friendly functions within the AC upgrades at Denison.

Columbine Elementary School receives air conditioning in 2023

Learn from our contractor's lead architect Nathan Albers about the special care and consideration that went into supplying Columbine Elementary with air conditioning and cooling upgrades this summer.

DPS' Air conditioning and cooling compilation video for Summer 2023

A compilation video of all the work completed this summer on air conditioning and cooling upgrades across the district! #DPSThrives

Bond in the media

Media coverage relating to AC and cooling efforts at DPS this summer!


What is "Bond and Mill Levy" Anyway?

Both a bond and a mill levy are types of funding drawn from property taxes to support public projects and services. A bond is a one-time capital investment in schools and classrooms. For example, bond funds may help renovate older schools to update them for 21st-century learning, build brand-new school buildings and buy additional educational technology. A bond can invest in building upgrades such as critical maintenance, sustainability or air conditioning.

A mill levy funds ongoing operational needs such as teacher salaries, software, school nurses and social-emotional supports. While a bond funds the physical building of schools and classrooms, the mill levy funds bring the classroom to life. For more information on funding please review our school funding 101 resources.

Everyone Has a Voice at DPS

The details surrounding bond and mill levy can often be confusing, and we hope to rectify that -- in part -- with the development and distribution of this newsletter. Transparency is our goal and we are working hard to make sure the Denver community knows that the promises we made are promises we have kept.

All of our stakeholders have an important role in advocating for the improvements we make in our school district and the lives we are able to change in doing so. We hope this newsletter will illuminate that and will be both a call to action and a word of encouragement.

Thank you,

Giorgia Alexander

Bond and Mill Levy Communications Specialist for DPS

Questions or comments? Contact:


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