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We have 'snow days', why don't we have 'heat days' too?

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Kids across Ontario returned back to school this week and we are expecting summer-like temperatures to continue.

Temperatures will be flirting with 30 degrees, feeling more like 40 degrees when you factor in humidity.  Unfortunately for many students, they will be returning to schools without air conditioning. That means they will be expected to learn in environments that might be deemed not only uncomfortable, but unsafe.

Kendra Spira, whose husband is a teacher had this to say via Twitter: 

In situations like this, heat exhaustion might become an issue. Heat exhaustion is when you've lost too many body fluids and too much salt and the body starts losing its ability to cope. 

We are all aware that temperatures can stay hot and humid well into the beginning of fall.  For example, the City of Toronto issued an 'extended heat warning' during a record-breaking heat wave in late September 2017. The warmest day of 2017 was September 24th, two days AFTER the first day of fall.  

Living in North America, we have access to all sorts of technology to help our children learn: smartboards, computers, tablets, and iPhones. We agree that all of these things contribute to our children's higher learning, but why isn't the same importance placed on temperature regulation in classrooms?

a large lawn in front of a house © Provided by The Weather Network

A portable, like the one Kendra Spira's husband works in. Hot temperatures can affect energy, focus levels, and memory, while also making children feel ill and uncomfortable. Photo: Wikimedia

Ryan Bird, Manager of Corporate and Social Media Relations at Toronto District School Board says, "It's just too expensive." 

"It comes down to the age of our schools and the and the cost to install it, some of our schools are over 100 years old, and I can tell you that ventilation in general wasn't exactly top of mind let alone air conditioning."

Schools have "snow days" when the weather is too treacherous to travel in the winter, but they don't have "heat days" when the humidex reaches extreme values. 

"There is really no higher threshold when it comes to heat to cancel classes anywhere. Maybe half the schools are ok and more comfortable when the other half are not and trying to cancel school for certain schools and not for other schools and you'd have to base it off temperatures, it really is complicated." 

Parent Linda Cvetanovic states "Our kid's school is not air conditioned and at the end of last year kids were miserable in the heat. Lots of headaches, feeling sick, etc. I do not keep them home from school but trust that if the conditions are unsafe, the school board will make the right decision and close the school."

Even when it's warm, parent Francesca McBean sends her son to school. "I pack a few frozen drinks that I put in the freezer the night before."

Other parents, like Rylan Betts, bring their kids home when the heat becomes unbearable. "I will take them out of school when the hottest part of the day hits during extreme heat. Usually around noon. While I trust that most teachers are doing what they can to keep the children cool, in 41 degrees it's too limited."

The TDSB leaves the decision up to the family. Bird comments, "When there are extreme weather conditions, we always say that in the end it's at the discretion of parents and guardians to keep their kids home."




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