PEI

Island parents raise concerns about student well-being on hot days

With record-breaking temperatures warming up the Island, some P.E.I. parents are raising concerns about their children at school and on the bus. Last week, Environment Canada issued a heat warning reminding people to be aware of the elevated risk of heat illnesses. One parent said their son experienced such in the classroom. 

Heatwaves should be viewed similarly to snowstorms, one parent said

Children are not required to wear masks in school buses and classrooms anymore, when a heat warning is issued. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC news)

With record-breaking temperatures warming up the Island, some P.E.I. parents are raising concerns about their children in classrooms and school buses. 

Last week, Environment Canada issued a heat warning reminding people to be aware of the elevated risk of heat illnesses. One parent said their son experienced such in the classroom. 

"Last Tuesday he comes back complaining that the classroom's kind of hot, it's like scorching hot," said Richard Xu, who has a son in Grade 7.

"He just didn't feel really good at school."

Students were also required to wear masks, which added to the heat his son felt, Xu said. 

"He mentioned it was kind of hot riding the bus with other classmates especially during the summertime and everyone has to wear masks."

Parents alarmed

Xu wasn't the only parent bothered by the situation. In fact, several others took to social media sharing stories of their children coming home red-faced or with headaches.

Norbert Carpenter, the director of P.E.I's Public Schools Branch (PSB) is urging more parents to let schools know about their child's complaints.

"We need to know the information, so if that information is relayed to the school, they can relay it to us and we can make the most informed decisions."

Norbert Carpenter, director of P.E.I. Public Schools Branch, said schools do as much as possible to lessen effects of a heatwave in classrooms. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC news)

With guidance from the Chief Public Health Office, the PSB has adjusted mask requirements for future days when a heat warning has been issued.

"It could be removed while seated in the classroom. Also we asked about busing and moved toward removing them in buses as well," Carpenter said.

"We know wearing a mask in the classroom or in a setting such as the bus is tough at the best of times, so throw in very warm temperatures and it's very uncomfortable."

Suggestions for closure during heatwave

As for Xu, he said the change is a great strategy but he wants to see it go a step further.

"During the winter months, students are off [in] extreme weather like a snowstorm or ice and rain. Hot weather may also be considered as extreme weather," he said.

"I think parents and students will appreciate if the Public Schools Branch could give just one day or even half-day off during the extreme hot weathers so the students could suffer less from the heatwave."

'We'll take a hard look at it if the trend continues where we are getting more heat advisories during a school day,' Carpenter says. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Carpenter said although there isn't a policy regarding heat waves, a school environment would be shut down for the day if deemed unsafe. When temperatures rise, schools are often able to modify activities as appropriate. 

"We always will try to mitigate the heat as best we can in our buildings to make sure students and staff are safe."

If temperatures continually rise above the norm, there would be consideration for a policy, Carpenter said.

"Of course, with climate change we may need to address this in the future, so we'll take a hard look at it if the trend continues where we are getting more heat advisories during a school day."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Sheehan Desjardins

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