Managing hot weather in schools

Managing hot weather in schools
Posted on 06/18/2024
Managing hot weather in schools

This week, Environment Canada issued a Heat Warning for the City of Ottawa with temperatures expected to climb to 35 degrees Celsius with humidex values of 40 to 45.

During a Heat Warning, the OCDSB carefully monitors advisories from Environment Canada and Ottawa Public Health. In schools, extreme heat can create challenging learning and working conditions for students and staff. On hot days, students and employees are encouraged to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, and avoid caffeine and caffeinated beverages;
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity, especially outdoors;
  • Wear lightweight and loose clothing;
  • Avoid direct exposure to the sun and seek shade and shelter at the first signs of heat exposure; and
  • Where direct sun exposure cannot be avoided, wear a hat and apply sunscreen.

The following are some recommended strategies school staff also use for dealing with hot temperatures indoors where air conditioning is not available:

  • Where possible, windows may be opened first thing in the morning and closed mid-morning as it starts to get hot outside; 
  • Keep the blinds/curtains closed during the day, particularly on windows that are facing the sun.
  • Portable fans may also be employed to help manage heat, if helpful. 

Facilities Department staff will also monitor weather forecasts for high temperatures and modify ventilation systems to maximize the benefit of cooler temperatures during the night.  

Where there are particular concerns about extreme heat and planned activities, school principals will consult with their superintendent and may change or reschedule activities where appropriate.

Air conditioning

Provincially, the percentage of schools with more than 25% air conditioning coverage is 44%. Since 2017, the OCDSB has made considerable progress improving the cooling systems in our schools:

  • 70% of schools have air conditioning in some or all learning spaces (an increase from 41% in 2017)
  • 25% are partially air conditioned to varying levels, but not in classrooms
  • 5% of schools have no central air conditioning (a drop from 34% in 2017).

All of our schools have at least one area with partial or portable air conditioning (ie gym, main office, library) and these spaces can assist in offering cool off spaces in buildings that are not fully air conditioned.

Looking ahead, we have an additional $6.8 million planned in cooling work over the summer at 12 sites and we are working on a three-year plan to evaluate and develop options for those schools with the least amount of cooling in the system. 

Resources and helpful information

The Ottawa Public Health website includes:

  • A map of places to cool off in Ottawa
  • Ways to stay healthy through a heat warning
  • Who to call for help and information

Beat the heat resources from Ottawa Public Health (PDF):

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