Toronto teacher fed up with hot classroom spends $500 on air conditioner

A Toronto teacher spent over $500 of her own money to install an air conditioning unit in her classroom after a week of sweltering temperatures left her students feeling faint and lethargic.

'If parents knew their kids were that hot, they wouldn't want them to come to school,' teacher says

Jill Donald, who teaches Grade 4, 5, and 6 students French, has tried several different things to cool off her classroom, including a $500 air conditioning unit. (CBC News)

A Toronto teacher spent over $500 of her own money to install an air conditioning unit in her classroom after a week of sweltering temperatures left her students feeling faint and lethargic.

Jill Donald, who teaches Grade 4, 5, and 6 students French, works at Wilkinson Junior Public School near Donlands and Danforth Avenues. She told CBC News that temperatures in her third-floor classroom soared over 30 C last week, forcing her to scramble for solutions when she saw how much her students were suffering.

"They were so sweaty, we all were," Donald told CBC News.

"We were all dripping, lethargic. It felt like a sauna."

Jill Donald relies on three fans to keep her classroom cool. Unfortunately, an air conditioning unit she tried didn't work as well. (Jill Donald/Submitted)
Donald, who contacted CBC News about conditions in her classroom, said the aging school's design made things worse. The windows open from the bottom, allowing minimal air flow. And, overnight, those windows have to be closed, which means the classrooms stay warm.

The teacher said she was actually surprised students weren't sent home due to the hot conditions.

"I think if parents knew that their kids were that hot, they wouldn't want them to come to school. It was extreme," she said.

'That shouldn't happen,' Wynne said

Premier Kathleen Wynne was asked about the situation Tuesday in an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning. She told host Matt Galloway that teachers and students should not be asked to teach and learn in sweltering classrooms.

"We just put a billion dollars over two years in retrofitting and renovating schools, whether it's the HVAC systems, whether it's boilers and windows and painting," Wynne said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done across the province and we recognize that."

​Sam Hammond, President of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), said there are lots of teachers working in classrooms without air conditioning and that the conversation around excessive heat seems to happen every September and June.

"It's extremely frustrating for [teachers] and it is unacceptable learning conditions for students in those classrooms," he said.

ETFO calls for province to invest more

Hammond called on the province to ensure that there's air conditioning in all schools, or to create legislation that allows school administrators to dismiss students if it gets too hot — just as students can be sent home during severe winter weather.

Unfortunately, Donald's air conditioning system didn't work to cool her classroom.

Now, she's set up three fans next to the classroom's windows, hoping that will keep things a bit cooler.