It’s getting so hot at some schools in a Vancouver suburb that administrators are suggesting students pack ice packs and personal fans to deal with the sweltering classrooms.
It’s been unseasonably hot in Metro Vancouver this May, with heat records shattered in the province every day this week. Students in New Westminster, BC, are really feeling the heat in two newly built schools that don’t have air conditioning.
New West Secondary and Skwo:wech Elementary were both opened within the last two years. They’re beautiful buildings with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that, unfortunately, get unmanageably hot when it’s warm out.
“The fact is, some of our district’s schools and learning spaces are well-equipped to manage higher temperature days, and others are not as well equipped to do so,” New Westminster Schools said in a letter to parents Thursday.
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Laura Kwong, chair of the District Parent Advisory Council, told Daily Hive that parents have reported classroom temperatures getting as high as 31°C this month. And with wildfire smoke choking the region, it’s not always a given that windows can be opened.
It’s a problem she says will only get worse as the effects of climate change become more pronounced.
“It’s too hot to learn. Teachers are struggling to teach,” Kwong said. “We’ve heard that some students are going home because they’re experiencing symptoms of heat stroke.”
Parents and the school district are hopeful the provincial government will approve funding for air-conditioning retrofits in the coming years. But in the meantime, all school staff can do is close blinds, open windows, and purchase more fans.
The district told parents to make sure their kids are dressed in breathable clothing and to make sure they have a personal water bottle. It also suggested students bring ice packs and personal fans to school to deal with the heat.
And in some cases, the district told parents it’s okay to keep kids home if that’s where they’ll be cooler and more comfortable.
“This week’s warm weather has been a very good reminder about the challenges that hotter spring and summer days can sometimes bring. While we’re glad the forecasts expect cooler temperatures in coming days, we need to anticipate that more hot days will come,” the district said.
Brand-new high school cost $107-million, but no AC
New West Secondary opened in January 2022, a modern LEED Gold building prepared to withstand earthquakes.
The project cost $107 million, but that wasn’t enough to include air-conditioning.
The BC Ministry of Education told Daily Hive that students learn best when they’re comfortable in their classrooms, and said schools can request funding for HVAC improvements.
However, it did not answer Daily Hive’s question about whether air conditioning would be installed in either of the two sweltering schools.