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Stifling school: Good for ‘morale’ to be let out early, says N.B. student

Click to play video: 'Heat wave closes schools in New Brunswick'
Heat wave closes schools in New Brunswick
It was another scorcher on Thursday as sweltering temperatures forced schools in several parts of New Brunswick to either close early – or remain shuttered altogether. Nathalie Sturgeon spoke to some parents and students amid the heat wave and brings us the details – Jun 20, 2024

As a heat wave persists throughout New Brunswick, many students across the province were dismissed early on Thursday to escape the humid and crowded conditions inside classrooms.

In a statement issued on Wednesday night, the Anglophone School District West announced that grades K-8 students would be dismissed two hours earlier than their regular dismissal time.

Early on Thursday, the Anglophone South School District announced similar measures in a social media post.

“This change in schedule is in response to the significant heat that we are experiencing across the district,” the post on X, formerly known as Twitter, read when uploaded at 6:43 a.m. on Thursday.

“Because temperatures should cool down late in the day, all graduations, grad activities, proms, moving-on celebrations, and dances will take place as scheduled.”

According to a heat warning from Environment Canada, temperatures were forecast to feel like 45 C -with the humidex value – through most areas in the province in the afternoon.

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“Heat warnings are issued when very high temperature or humidity conditions are expected to pose an elevated risk of heat illnesses, such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion,” read a warning from the weather agency.

“Nighttime lows are expected to remain very warm for the period, limiting overnight cooling.”

Aaron Sullivan, about to finish fifth grade at Bayview School in Saint John, said he’s relieved that students were let out early this afternoon.

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“I’m in a classroom where it’s extremely hot,” he explained. “I don’t think that would be good (if we stayed), especially for morale.”

Sullivan said the humidity was making classroom conditions increasingly uncomfortable before dismissal.

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Parents were also relieved that students could leave before temperatures increased — although some would’ve preferred some earlier notice.

“Knowing that the heat wave has been on its way, this should’ve been thought about and decided prior to, to allow parents more time to plan and pick-ups,” said Loreal Edison, a parent who arrived to pick up her child.

“Luckily I don’t go to work until the evening, but it does disrupt the middle of the day when I have other commitments that I now have to cancel or postpone to pick them up early.”

Click to play video: 'Heat warnings in Maritimes sparks concerns about schools'
Heat warnings in Maritimes sparks concerns about schools

Air conditioners a possibility?

Peter Lagacy, the president of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association, said aging infrastructure in schools is making it difficult to safely operate in warming conditions — adding that improved classroom ventilation systems could make a significant difference moving forward.

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He suggested that provincial policy to determine when a closure is necessary could also be a helpful method of navigating these scenarios.

“Instances such as these, if they’re going to become more frequent, provincial policy would be important with a framework so teachers, parents, students, all communities understand what happens when days like these occur,” he said.

Lagacy noted that installing air conditioning in schools could be something worth looking at, as well. He said although some schools have ventilation projects underway, none include air conditioning.

“I’m not aware of any schools that do have air conditioning. I think when our schools were built, 40 or 50 years ago, air conditioning really wasn’t part of the part of the equation at all,” he explained.

“I think it should be part of the conversation, going forward. But where they should or shouldn’t, I’m not sure. I mean, we’re in school in June and September, which seem to be typically hotter months.”

Lagacy said conversations about implementing air conditioning in schools would be a “more in-depth conversation” with other parties at the table.

As for Friday, Environment Canada has forecast temperatures to be slightly more manageable — but still hot across the province — as Moncton and Saint John are projected to endure a high of about 28 C, and Fredericton will see highs of 31 C.

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— with files from Nathalie Sturgeon

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