Public School Board To Investigate Best Way To Cool Off Classrooms

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With extreme heat hitting the classroom in a big way this school year, trustees with the Greater Essex County District School Board have agreed to look into the best way to keep students and teachers cool.

While administration will now put together a formal report on costing and options, trustees were told at their Tuesday night meeting roughly 35 schools are in need of air conditioning with a cost of $2-million to $3-million per building to install it.

Trustee Jessica Sartori made the motion and says any option to improve the situation should be considered.

"The $2-million to $3-million per school to put in air conditioning, that's not the only option. I think we can be looking at fans, considering a variety of options, different types of ventilation, things like that. I'm really interested in the report that's going to come forward that is going to have some ideas about what we can do."

Sartori says she's looking forward to hearing how other boards are tackling the issue.

"That's something that I would like to see in this report coming forward as well. What are other boards doing? But also, what are the barriers that everybody is facing? Money is definitely going to be one of them. Different kinds of construction in different buildings is going to be another issue. It's not going to be a one size fits all process."

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Trustee with the Greater Essex County District School Board, Jessica Sartori (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Student trustee Iman Berry agrees something needs to be done.

"At the beginning of the school year, it was one of the hottest days I've ever experienced in high school. I guess it was a little bit harder to pay attention with so many kids in the classroom and so much heat. I think that, if it is feasible, having an air conditioner or having more fans in the classroom would be a really great idea."

Berry feels air conditioning would be a game changer for many students.

"Having air conditioning would really improve the learning environment because when we don't have A/C the main focus of the class is, "Oh my God, it's so hot." And that's all everyone focuses on. After a lesson nobody works on their assignment because it's so hard to just sit down and actually do your work."

Student trustee Layla Bakaa says there's no question the heat has an impact on learning.

"You can definitely see it. At the start of the day kids would have energy, by the end of it they're depleted. It's draining, the physical aspect, paying attention. I find it's more difficult to concentrate in class if you're concentrating on your own body heat."

Sartori says the report will be useful when asking for ministry funding.

"Do we have the budget to do something right now? It depends on what that's going to be. So where is that money going to come from? We know heat in schools impacts teachers, it impacts students, it impacts outcomes and I think we need to be really mindful. This is going to help us advocate to provincial bodies including the government."

As it stands now, 26 of 70 schools across the board have A/C.

According to board officials, nearly every school offers some form of air conditioning in the library giving students and staff a place to cool off.

The report on extreme heat mitigation is due back to the board of trustees by Spring 2019.