Meeting Notes - June 19, 2018

Tonight we had our last regular board meeting of the school year. Superintendent Lynn McLaughlin presented her final Special Education Plan before retirement this summer - congratulations!

The Special Education Plan is developed in consultation with SEAC, one of our board committees which consists of trustees, educators, parents, and community partners. We are committed to providing programming that promotes success and opportunities for all students, and ensures that those with exceptionalities are served well. As the plan notes, the first option is to keep the student in their regular classroom as much as possible while providing the supports that are needed to do so, and if that option is not successful, programming in separate specialized classrooms is provided that is designed to suit the student's needs. We provide GAINS (Giving Attention to Individual Needs) in 18 elementary schools, STEPS (Secondary Skills to Enhance Personal Success) in 11 of our high schools, as well as specific programming for children with Autism. 

We involve parents and students in the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) process. The IEP is a working document that can be updated as needed as new information comes to light. Sometimes parents do not agree and the principal will organize a meeting with the Special Education team to attempt to find a resolution. I know that this can be a difficult process for parents sometimes. More information about the 2018/19 Special Education Plan can be found here.    

During Question Period, I asked about the heat in classrooms. Administration assured us that schools are doing everything they can to mitigate the risks associated with heat. We do have an Administrative Procedure for Extreme Temperature that schools must follow which includes a lower limit relating to cold temperature, but no heat limit. I asked about this and Administration indicated that this is because there is no provincial heat regulation, but there is a low temperature regulation. The Procedure includes breaks in other rooms in the school that may be air conditioned, regular hydration, and purchasing drapes and, occasionally, fans. We were assured that schools are compliant with this Procedure and that they watch for signs that a student may need to go to a cool space.

I am extremely concerned about this and will be doing some more research over the summer. A recent article published by Global News indicated that "out of the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) 583 schools, 128 have full air conditioning, some have partial air conditioning, and others have no air conditioning at all." At the Toronto Catholic board, "139 of the 200 schools have mechanical ventilation systems and 83 of those schools have air conditioning." Toronto Catholic indicated that it would cost "hundreds of millions of dollars to provide air conditioning at all of its schools." However, both boards are planning to install cooling locations over the next four years. Perhaps that is something we can look into. I am not sure what the number of schools without air conditioning is for our school board, but we need to know that before we can start to take some sort of action. Unfortunately, one barrier may be our current Air Conditioning Policy and Regulation which indicates that air conditioning should be minimized and used as a last resort. This policy last came to trustees in 2016 and we approved it. Top of mind at that time was energy costs, however, temperatures in the summer are becoming concerning and I think we are seeing hotter days earlier in the year now. We may need to reconsider this policy for the sake of student and teacher safety. More to come.

Have a great summer, everyone!


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Jessica Sartori