Heat response and warm weather
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 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.
While each school and each classroom is unique, we know this has been particularly frustrating at both Skwo:wech and NWSS, as our two newest schools. The reality we’ve had to face at those two schools is that the approved scope of work and funding that was provided by government did not include cooling systems. However, given the rapid climate changes we’ve all experienced over the last couple years, we’re optimistic that cooling systems and possible retrofits may be considered and funded by our government partners, where required, as we continue our ongoing conversations with them.
At each of these two schools, in particular, our Facilities team has worked tirelessly to engage with outside consultants and system experts to ensure that we are optimizing the systems we have in place, to provide the best possible air flow and/or cooling techniques that our systems are capable of.
Across all schools, our district and site-based staff have been working throughout the last week to address concerns raised in the buildings and spaces that have faced particular challenges. This has included:
- Using existing air flow systems to purge hot air out of buildings overnight, to ensure we’re starting the day with cooler air.
- The Facilities team has been and will be monitoring internal and external temperatures on hotter days, so they can adjust the air flow intake as required.
- School administration have been working to purchase and set up new fans in the classrooms that need them.
- Staff have been reminded about ways to reduce heat from building on hot days; including: closing blinds and window coverings, reducing use of overhead lighting and electronics that can emit heat, and all staff have been provided tips on how and when to maximize air flow in classrooms.
- Principals and Vice Principals have been working hard to identify the most affected classrooms, encouraging and facilitating full use of each school … as lessons have moved outside into shady areas, into gyms and libraries, and more.
As we each adjust to the environmental changes we’re experiencing in our personal lives, we know we also need to adjust our practices and spaces to ensure that our learning and working environments support all the people in them. Over the next few weeks, while we continue to address both immediate concerns and long-term planning work, we’ll also be working to revisit our extreme weather Administrative Procedures and review for any specific provisions that might be necessary to formalize for heat-related events. We will all need to prepare for the fact that in the future we may need to make either site-specific or district-wide decisions to close schools in the cases of extreme heat, as we saw done for the heat dome two years ago.
As we each have a role to play in preparing ourselves and our students in the warmer weeks to come, we’ll also take this opportunity to remind you of a few key things you can do from home:
- Please make sure to send students to school in appropriate attire for sun: breathable clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Check to make sure kids have water bottles and are consuming hydrating lunch and snack options.
- If your child is affected by heat, consider whether personal cooling tools (ice packs, handheld fans, etc) might help them stay cooler through the day.
For more on sun and heat safety, you can find a wide range of tips and information through Fraser Health: https://www.fraserhealth.ca/health-topics-a-to-z/sun-safety
On our hottest days, we also respect that fact that you know your child best, and you also know how able you are to keep them cool in your own space. We understand that changes family to family. If you need to keep your child home for a day or two through a hotter period, please make sure to submit the absence to your school’s office.
If you have specific questions about your school and how they’re working to keep kids as cool as possible, please reach out to your school Principal.