Hot classrooms prompted teachers' union to form task force for air conditioning
Two Windsor-Essex teachers presented the school's heat problems in the union general meeting
School is back in session in two weeks, but the heat doesn't show any sign of dissipating.
And the lack of air conditioning in schools has prompted the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario to start a task force to address the problem.
"It's a provincial problem," said Christina McKibbon, who teaches at Queen Victoria Public School in Windsor. "We're seeing students who are showing signs of heat exertion."
She named dizziness, nausea, complaints of headaches and stomachaches from students and also staff.
In Windsor-Essex, some schools are considered "partially air-conditioned." What that means is some school buildings have air conditioning in staff lounges and offices.
But McKibbon says that label doesn't tell the full story, because teachers are too busy teaching to be sitting in the staff room or office.
She and another teacher, Jamie Lamb from D. M. Eagle Public School in Tecumseh, presented the issue at the union's annual meeting last week. Now the issue has been handed off to the provincial executives.
McKibbon hopes they will come up with a concrete plan to put pressure on the provincial government to restore the $100 million in funding for school repairs.
The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund was eliminated on July 3, a fund earmarked for building upgrades to make schools more energy efficient.
Temporary heat solutions
Lamb said while the Greater Essex County District School Board does as much as it can to provide things like fans, the weather is only going to get hotter.
"I'm seeing kids more and more being absent and parents are keeping them home," he said.
Lamb is also a physical education teacher, making it extra difficult when the younger students don't know warning signs of heat exhaustion and "go full tilt."
"So often times, we won't do a gym class, we'll do health instead," said Lamb, which he points out is not welcomed by kids in the lower grade levels. "The gym floors get slippery. The walls sweat and it's unsafe."
Lamb urges parents and the public to know what's happening in the schools and contact elected officials about the funds that school boards need, because "they're strapped."
Hear more from Christina McKibbon and Jamie Lamb on the CBC's Windsor Morning:
And for McKibbon's old school built in the 1920s, there is not a whole lot teachers can do.
Some bring ice packs for the students and there are very large fans to help move the air. However, curtains are kept closed in her classroom to block out the sun, but that doesn't allow for good air ventilation.
Lamb wants parents to ensure their kids have had a proper breakfast and have been drinking water before heading to school.
"They don't have a worry in the world and we just need to keep out an eye for them," he said.