Public School Board Trustee Calling for Update to Extreme Heat Policy

A trustee with the Greater Essex County District School Board believes more could be done to keep students comfortable during extreme heat situations.

Sarah Cipkar is calling for a revamp of the board's current extreme weather policy.

As it stands, the majority of staff rooms and offices are air conditioned, but Cipkar says priority should be given to students and their learning environment. 

She says students are not being given equal opportunities.

"Some classrooms are prioritized and not others. Computer rooms, offices, those type of environments, but then on the upper floors students are suffering and they ultimately don't learn as well and that's what research shows as well," says Cipkar. "So I just want to take a closer look at that policy over the next couple of months before we get to the hot days in May and June."

She says heat in the classroom was the number concern she heard while campaigning during the 2018 municipal election.

"One of the number one concerns that I heard from parents, especially around the core school areas, was heat specifically on upper floors," she says, "A lot of those schools are built differently than the schools that we build now, which are one floor and they often have air conditioning. What can we actually do to make sure the students' learning environment is protected?"

The board estimates it would cost $102-million to install air conditioning at all schools with an additional $1.1-million per year for operating costs.

All school libraries across the board currently have air conditioning to provide a safe spot for students during extreme heat events.

Cipkar says the weather is changing and policies should be updated to reflect that.

"Climate change is a huge issue and I think we're grappling with extreme temperatures. I think that those older schools were not built with some of that in mind," she says. "If you have a student in that environment, what's the quality of learning they're getting? I just really want to make sure that all of our students are given a fair shot at learning and I worry about some of those older schools."

Cipkar's request will now to go the board's policy committee for debate.