September 25, 2017
As southern Ontario temperatures soar, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is renewing calls for the government to address extreme heat and humidity conditions in elementary schools.
“Students and teachers in many classrooms are subject to unbearable conditions with temperatures over 30 degrees. That takes an unacceptable toll on teaching and learning,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “Schools found themselves in the same situation one year ago. Our changing climate is sending a strong message that the Ministry of Education needs to take action. Too much student learning will be lost the longer the Ministry delays.”
In August, ETFO passed a series of motions at its Annual Meeting that call on the government to take action in elementary schools, which are least likely to be air conditioned. Those actions should include:
- ensuring all schools have a heat stress plan;
- setting maximum indoor temperature limits which mandate school boards and schools to take action, including closing schools if necessary;
- and providing air conditioning or heat reduction systems in elementary schools.
“While we recognize that air conditioning can be expensive, there are significant costs in not fixing the problem. The current haphazard approach compromises teaching and learning conditions and can have serious health impacts for children and staff including asthma,” added Hammond.
“There are also other means to help deal with these issues such as having classroom windows that can open and having cooling stations where students and educators can be rotated to during the day. The key is to have a plan in place to deal with the issue.”
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario represents 78,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. Its Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at www.buildingbetterschools.ca.
In response to the extreme heat and humidity facing many schools and as a follow up to the above press release ETFO has put together an easy method for people to contact their MPP on the issue. A template letter can be found here: http://www.buildingbetterschools.ca/heat
ETFO SUGGESTIONS FOR DEALING WITH EXTREME HEAT CONDITIONS
An Ontario heat wave is affecting ETFO members in their workplaces. School board classrooms and portables often lack air conditioning. Mechanical ventilation systems may be doing a poor job of fresh air exchange. Windows may not open far enough to catch a breeze. When a heat wave happens, these building conditions can increase the health risks associated with high temperature and humidity for both staff and students. Members with pre-existing health conditions and members who are pregnant may be particularly vulnerable to the health effects of high temperatures, including heat stress.
If school board procedures and practices are failing to control the risks of excessive heat in the workplace, despite your request, then contact the Ministry of Labour at 1-877-202-0008 to report your concern or complaint.
Here are some points that may assist with messaging to your members and the school board about high temperature concerns:
- School boards have policy and procedures for dealing with extreme temperatures. In the short term, school board actions to control the risks of heat stress can include for example: the use of electric fans; scheduled access to cooler learning spaces; resetting the ventilation system for greater efficiency; and the maintenance, service, and repair of air handling units in classrooms.
- Encourage your members to report their health and safety concerns about high temperature and humidity to their principal and request that these concerns be investigated and dealt with.
- Encourage the reporting of workplace illness to the principal using the school board’s reporting form for injury and illness.
- If a member is feeling unwell due to high temperatures and humidity, then first aid and medical attention may be indicated. If a member needs to seek medical attention, then the member needs to request that the principal makes the necessary arrangements.
- Remind your members to contact their ETFO local or ETFO Professional Relations Services for advice and support when dealing with issues related to high temperatures in their workplaces.
Please contact ETFO Provincial for advice about dealing with high temperatures in school boards.