June 1, 2018 7:09 pm

Lack of funding leaves many London schools without air-conditioning

Aberdeen Public School on Grey Street is one of many in the Thames Vally District School Board that lacks air conditioning.

Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL
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Near record-breaking temperatures and the start of EQAO testing in Ontario left many London students forced to focus in hot classrooms over the last week of May.

While it’s common among cars, malls and workplaces, many schools across the city still lack air-conditioning.

Superintendent of business for the London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) Jacquie Davison told 980 CFPL only 36 of their 56 buildings come equipped with air-conditioning.

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“Eight of them have had additions to the building that are air-conditioned,” said Davison. “Twelve of our buildings have localized air-conditioning, where we put portable air-conditioners in particular spaces.”

The bigger Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) did not give 980 CFPL a specific number, but superintendent for student achievement Paul Sydor said, “About 40 per cent or so” of the board’s 168 schools have air-conditioning.

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According to Sydor, the problem is a lack of provincial funding and the age of many buildings in the school board.

“Retrofitting to include air-conditioning would be prohibitively expensive,” said Sydor. “However, whenever we have the opportunity to build a new school, we always include air-conditioning in that.”

Sydor that buildings do get retrofitted if it is a pressing concern. When that happens, air-conditioning is always installed.

The lack of air-conditioning is one of many problems “Fix Our Schools” intends to repair. The group’s website features photos of schools across Ontario that have fallen victim to an alleged “$15.9 billion of disrepair.”

Krista Wylie is the co-founder of the provincewide initiative that has spent the past four years pressuring the Ontario government to increase funding for school renovations. On “London Live with Mike Stubbs,” Wylie said the lack of air-conditioning has parents concerned.

“We’re hearing from lots of parents from across the province, certainly in London and the Windsor area, that the heat this week has been atrocious.”

While she understands there is no quick fix, Wylie said alternative options should be considered.

“In the short term, simply instituting ‘what is too hot,’ so kids can go home to a place that’s cooler.”

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“They have not been receiving nearly enough money to even take care of basic things,” added Wylie, explaining that she places no blame on the schools.

“The tricky situation for school boards to prioritize air-conditioning… if a roof is leaking through a child’s classroom, that has to take priority.”

Wylie’s group has put forth a pledge asking MPP candidates to fix Ontario schools. With just days before the election, the pledge has received 159 signatures. All Liberal, Progressive Conservative, NDP, and Green Party candidates running in London ridings have signed.

In the meantime, both the LDCSB and the TVDSB use a number of measures to accommodate staff and students in non-air-conditioned schools. Some of the measures include reducing physical activity, using fans and moving students to cooler areas of schools if need be.

Along with those measures, students suffering from the heat will get a helping hand from Mother Nature starting Monday. Environment Canada is forecasting highs between 15 C and 21 C.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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