Schools, COVID and the Heatwave – A Cocktail That Doesn’t Refresh

On Monday afternoon, Mercury’s temperature reached 32.3 degrees Celsius, breaking the previous 1941 record of 29.4 degrees.

The heat drove out half of Marie-Pierre Chouinard’s class.

Typically, this teacher from Académie Sainte-Marie is faced with 33 teenagers aged 15 to 18 who are struggling with great academic difficulties.

I was only 18 this morning, calculated by Marie-Pierre Chouinard. Some told me they would not return this afternoon, I expect there will be 15 students.

Marie-Pierre Chouinard believes schools should be closed when excessively high levels of mercury interfere with students’ concentration.

Photo: Radio Canada / Dominique Martel

In his opinion, it was the heat that prevailed over their motivation. In her case, she was right about the day’s schedule.

It’s unbearable, she said. We are in special education, so we still have the privilege of having some leeway in our day. We changed our day on board, but the students are hot.

The factory day, which had been set as Monday as part of the work adaptation program, was replaced by an excursion organized by the RTC.

It won’t be less hot, but at least we won’t be between four walls, explains the teacher, who would like to have an air-conditioned classroom to make it easier to wear a mask.

It’s horrible. This is really tricky. According to the rules that are imposed on us at school, we cannot even take it off while sitting at a desk. After a day, you can’t wait to get home.

Quote from:Marie-Pierre Chouinard, Lecturer at the Académie Sainte-Marie

Heat mask

Teenagers are sitting at their desks in the classroom. They all wear non-medical face masks.

Wearing a mask remains a must in most schools in Quebec, despite the intense heat that has hit the south of the province.

Photo: Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch

Academy students abound in the same direction. In this heat, the mask gets in the way; however, it must be worn at the Capitale-Nationale and Chaudière-Appalaches.

It’s hard to breathe, we always need to lower a little so that we can breathe, describes 17-year-old Tommy Gagnon. We have air conditioners all over the school, but we don’t have fans right now. I hope we have a little over the next few days.

Classes adapt as much as possible to the first wave of heat that hit the school environment after the introduction of the wearing of masks in schools.

Student in front of school

Tommy Gagnon finds that wearing a mask makes it difficult to breathe during the heat of the classroom.

Photo: Radio Canada / Dominique Martel

Drinking bowls remain closed, but teachers allow students to go to the kitchen to drink a glass of water as they please.

Some classes have fans, others don’t. The opening of the windows illuminates the atmosphere, with some, like Vincent Boyes, welcoming the measure.

The windows open well, we have small fans in the classroom, this is normal– he emphasizes.

The student wears a white cap

Vincent Boyce, 17, student of the Académie Sainte-Marie.

Photo: Radio Canada / Dominique Martel

Soft rules in other regions

Some school administrators in Montreal have decided to relax the rules and allow students to take off their masks.

Other establishments, especially Outaouais and Montérégie, have simply decided to close their doors because of the mercury.

Good idea, says Marie-Pierre Chouinard.

Fan in front of the backpack

Air conditioning in Quebec schools is rare. Fans are often used to ventilate and cool classrooms.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Daniel Coulomb

I think the schools should have been closed. I think about babies, it really isn’t easyshe said, watching the sun fall on the façade of the Académie Sainte-Marie behind her.

Daniel Gaultier, President of the Capitale-Nationale Teachers Union, regrets the lack of clear rules in the event of heat waves.

There are no occupational health and safety standards for maximum temperature. This is in good faith of the employers.– he emphasizes, believing that 90% of schools do not have air conditioning.

Man with beard and glasses, outdoors

Daniel Gaultier would like to see a health and safety standard for heat.

Photo: Radio Canada / Dominique Martel

Some students would love to take a day off, although many say the air conditioning in the halls and common areas of the Academy makes the day more bearable inside than outside.

Vincent Boyce says that he is ready to survive the heat at school if he wants to take advantage of the human warmth, which he had to deprive himself of for a long time.

I go to school, I really like it– says a 17-year-old student. Because after COVID it prevented me from communicating, and I’m a guy who really likes to communicate.

With information from Marie-Pierre Mercier

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