PUEBLO — Parents, teachers, and students in both Pueblo's School District 70 and District 60 are worried for the health of their children after many complaints that schools are too hot and certain classrooms do not have air conditioning.
"I don't feel like sitting in a 98 degree room is an environment set up for success for anyone to learn for 8 hours a day," said Meghan Maynes, who has thee children in District 60, one at Pueblo Arts Academy and two at South High School.
On Monday morning District 70 announced that Prairie Winds Elementary School would dismiss early at 11:00 am as a result of air conditioning issues, and Desert Sage Elementary followed shortly after for the same reason.
"We want them here, we want them learning, so it's always tough when they have to be let out early," said one Desert Sage father picking up his student.
"I mean I'll give them a break on one day, but if we get another call again for the AC then I'm sure I and many other parents will be reaching out."
However, Maynes says the heat problem in schools has been happening for years.
"They all are complaining about how hot it is in class, and it's been like that every year... but this year it's excessively hot, I feel."
The early dismissals happened the same day the Pueblo County's Health Department's new mask mandate took effect, requiring every person in a school over the age of two begin wearing masks again, regardless of vaccination status.
"I felt like my children were being treated like rabid dogs," said one woman whose children attend Pueblo County High School, describing her reaction to hearing about the new mask mandate.
Maynes says she is all for the mask mandate, but the combinations of the mask and heat worry her.
"The mask mandate, I'm excited about because it reduces the risk of it being transmitted and coming to my home, but on top of that it makes it even hotter for these kids to learn,"
Several teachers from both districts also contacted News 5 with concerns about the heat, but chose not to go on-camera in fear of losing their jobs.
District 70 says they are "working with HVAC contractors to get those systems back up and running as soon as possible".
District 60 says they have guidelines at the beginning of every school year to help prevent heat stress, including "moving students to cooler spaces within our buildings when possible, opening windows and turning off lights and electronics inside classrooms, and encouraging frequent water breaks for students and staff". They also say they are about 60% finished with installing new HVAC units at both South and PAA.
Regarding the mask mandate, all questions and concerns are to be directed to the Health Department, who said no one was available to speak for the time being.