Won't someone please think of the melting children?
It’s one thing for our city’s adults to complain about the heat, to bemoan the final days of summer and beckon fall weather, and for our mayor to ride a sweaty subway during the morning rush hour. It’s another for Toronto’s young students to practically melt in their seats during these first weeks back to school.
But that’s been the situation across the city for many students in schools where a lack of air conditioning is the norm.
It’s a story the media have been covering since classes resumed last Tuesday. Children are turning red-faced, dripping with sweat. Parents are pulling their kids out of class because the heat is making it hard for them to think (and probably breathe, if we’re being honest). According to one CBC report, some students are learning in 30 C classrooms—an environment that’s not just detrimental for learning, but unhealthy.
It’s been a blazing hot summer in Toronto this year, and warmth has continued well into September. So far this month, Toronto Public Health has issued two heat alerts and one extreme heat alert. (There are currently no laws stipulating the temperatures at which schools can close due to extreme heat.)
Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter says it’s up to school boards to work out the problem. But with a huge repair backlog amounting in billions of dollars, it’s unlikely the Toronto District School Board can make air conditioning a priority.
That’s why school staff are taking the problem into their own hands. At Ursula Franklin Academy, gym classes have been cancelled due to the heat. And at Wilkinson Junior Public School, a French teacher spent $500 out of her own pocket to buy an air conditioning unit. “We were all dripping, lethargic. It felt like a sauna,” Jill Donald told CBC. “I think if parents knew that their kids were that hot, they wouldn’t want them to come to school. It was extreme.”
That parents and staff are facing this problem on their own is upsetting at best, ridiculous at worst. School boards have a responsibility to provide a healthy, safe learning environment for the city’s youth—and keeping them cool in extreme heat should be their priority.