Meeting Notes - October 16, 2018

My motion for Administration to bring a report forward about options to address hot schools was debated tonight.

Please note that I did return to the boardroom tonight after missing the October 2 meeting due to my father’s passing. The initial motion was very specific and represented a big step forward:

That administration bring a report to the board of trustees with recommendations to mitigate extreme heat. The report shall include the number of classrooms in the system by school that lack air conditioning and the board’s current extreme temperature protocol. Administration shall identify strategies and costs to mitigate heat for classrooms lacking air conditioning which may include retrofitting schools with air conditioning, and equipment such as window units or fans. These estimates should be inclusive of energy costs. The report shall be completed by spring of 2019 and include recommendations on fiscal feasibility and external funding possibilities.”

I have noted previously that my daughter has told me about the heat at her school and the impact it had on her attentiveness during lessons as well as concentrating during tests. Although we do have cooling stations and cool rooms in schools, the majority do not have air-conditioned classrooms. As well, Administration has previously indicated that air conditioning would be very expensive and schools have budgets to purchase fans. I am, of course, appreciative of how teachers and school administrators are currently managing. However, I thought it important that trustees and the public know the actual numbers in terms of costs and numbers of classrooms lacking air conditioning. I also think it is important to always try to do more if possible.

Thank you to downtown activist Sarah Cipkar for speaking in support of the motion and noting that many people share this concern. She referred to research demonstrating the negative impact on student outcomes and suggested that a solution is needed which should be as energy-efficient as possible.

After much debate about the meaning and intent of the motion during which I noted that other school boards are looking into it and that I was not asking for an engineering report, it passed after significant changes to the wording. The final, supported motion was:

That administration prepare a report to the board of trustees with recommendations to mitigate extreme heat. The report shall be completed by spring of 2019.”

I was glad to learn some new information tonight brought forward by Administration. Currently, 26 out of 70 schools in GECDSB have air conditioning and the average cost to fully retrofit an existing school with air conditioning is $2-3 million. This is significant and I am not sure how something like this could be funded. Retrofitting is, therefore, unrealistic.

I am looking forward to more new information in the report that comes forward from Administration in the spring. I am hoping that this amended motion which no longer contains the specifics I had originally laid out will be a good baby step forward. 

Jessica

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Jessica Sartori