Only 30% of TDSB schools have functioning air conditioning as heat wave blankets city

School is back and so is the heat. Shauna Hunt with lack of air conditioning in Toronto schools and the plan to keep staff and students cool.

A heat wave in September means sweaty and uncomfortable classrooms for the return to school, especially when less than a third of Toronto public schools have functioning air conditioning.

It wasn’t the most comfortable conditions for learning, but hot or not school is in session, and thousands of staff and students have no choice but to cope.

Of the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) 583 schools, only about 30 per cent are fully air-conditioned, while hundreds of others have cooling centres.

The TDSB and other school boards across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) have hot weather plans in place, and they include measures such as using fans, opening windows, turning down the lights and turning off computers. Outdoor shade is being utilized, and students are being encouraged to hydrate.

RELATED: Some Canadian students going back to school face heat wave, post-wildfire landscape

After a summer of record-breaking heat and wildfires in some parts of the country, public health expert Jeffrey Brook says climate change is here, and we will see more hot days like these when school is in.

“Air conditioning is a logical response, an adaptation to future climate conditions when heat season starts soon and lasts longer. They have a downside, of course, of cost and using electricity and energy that might exasperate the climate change problem,” Brook said.

“Right now, the most efficient option is heat pumps, and there really is not much time to waste in starting this transition, perhaps with public places like schools and other government buildings and offices.”


The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) education centre. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS.

The Ministry of Education tells CityNews that $1.4 billion in funding is dolled out to school boards each year for repairs and for installing air conditioners.

In a statement, the ministry says it is the school board’s responsibility to have protocols in place as to how they deal with heat in schools, as well as addressing school renewal needs and requirements.

“We expect schools to listen to the concerns of parents and needs of students,” the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the TDSB’s heat plan will continue until further notice.

As for future conditions, a heat warning remains in place for Toronto, with temperatures expected to be in the lower 30s by the peak of the day on Wednesday. It will feel more like 40 C with the humidex.

An incoming and forecasted storm on Thursday should help cut into the humidity, bringing temperatures down to the mid-20s by the end of the week.

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