Listen: DPS students, propelled by climate change anxiety and initiative, push for heat pumps in schools

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4min 48sec
Jenny Brundin / CPR News
Student Halle Jackson, adult mentor Shellie Chambers, and students Oscar Park Caden O’Kellylee (left to right) lobby the DPS Community Planning and Advisory Committee meeting for heat pumps in school buildings on April 9, 2024.

Caden O’Kellylee, 12, remembers what it was like sitting in his elementary classroom when temperatures hit 90 degrees for hours a day.

“It’s pretty exhausting,” he said, thinking back to his time at Teller Elementary, one of more than 30 schools in Denver Public Schools without air conditioning. “Sometimes it’s hard to think.”

There was a portable AC unit in the window, “but they were very loud and weren’t very fun to listen to.  It was just uncomfortable.”

Denver Public Schools has gradually added traditional AC units to most of the schools. This November, voters may decide on air conditioning for the remaining 30 schools.

When O’Kellylee learned about an efficient way to both heat and cool in the same unit, something called a heat pump, he wondered: “Why don’t we have these?”

O’Kellylee is a member of Earth Rangers, the middle school extension of DPS Students for Climate Action, which is comprised mostly of high school students. They are lobbying for climate-conscious heat pumps to be installed in schools that don’t yet have air conditioning. They hope to get this option on the city’s November ballot.

Read the full story on Denverite.