Meeting Notes - September 25, 2018

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a restful summer vacation. My focus tonight was on the classroom. 

I asked whether there was clarity yet around the Health & Physical Education Curriculum. This curriculum covers physical education, well-being, and growth and development (aka sex ed). The new provincial government has been discussing changes to the 2015 curricula for both the elementary and secondary levels. Administration informed us that the secondary panel will be maintaining the 2015 curriculum and that the elementary panel will be using an interim curriculum from 2010. The main difference between the 2010 and 2015 elementary curriculum is that sexual identity and sexual orientation are not discussed in the 2010 curriculum but these areas are discussed starting in grade 7 in the 2015 curriculum.

I find this disappointing. I have said before that all students need to feel supported and know that differences in sexuality and identity are normal and are to be accepted. I am also concerned that there will now be a disconnect between the 2010 elementary curriculum and the 2015 secondary curriculum as the 2015 elementary and secondary curricula were intended to be used together. Furthermore, it is concerning that government representatives indicated that teachers can answer questions from students in these areas on a one-to-one basis. First, it suggests to students that they should be ashamed. Second, it puts teachers at risk.

In light of the government seeking consultation on sex ed, I asked if trustees would be amenable to sending a letter to the Ministry of Education stating that GECDSB supports a more progressive, evidence-based curriculum. Trustees unanimously consented.

I also brought the following motion:

“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 started asking questions about heat in schools back in May when my daughter told me that the third floor of Walkerville Collegiate was unbearable and that she felt ill. I understand that this is a difficult issue because there is no government regulation on heat levels the same way there are regulations about cold. In addition, our schools have many different designs across the board and a one-size-fits-all approach would not be feasible. I also understand that retrofitting for air conditioning is likely to be cost-prohibitive. Nevertheless, two Toronto boards have developed plans for heat mitigation and I think we need to do the same. I was very concerned after some statements were made in the media recently that the way to deal with the issue is to build new schools. I would not support closing a neighbourhood school in the name of air conditioning. It does not make sense to me that we would instigate long-term change on a neighbourhood so that we could build a new school with better climate control.

Indeed, this is a complex issue and I hope trustees support my motion on October 17. We need to start to understand the scope of the problem starting with a list of which schools lack air conditioning and developing a summary of possibilities.

Finally, a warm welcome to our 2018-19 Student Trustees, Iman Berry and Layla Bakaa! I am looking forward to working with you.

Jessica

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Jessica Sartori