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Hot Regina schools a symptom of crowded classrooms and chronic underfunding, union says

The uncomfortably hot temperatures some kids are experiencing in classrooms are another sign the province needs to rethink its approach to funding schools, the head of Saskatchewan's teachers' union says.

Earlier this week, a Regina mother told CTV news that she and other parents are opting to keep their kids home from schools without air conditioning.

Samantha Becotte, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF), said fans and portable air conditioners could be provided to schools, but everything has a financial cost to it, which school divisions are struggling to cover.

“Through this chronic underfunding of education, divisions have had to pull from their reserves in order to cover the budgetary shortfalls,” she said while speaking to reporters on Thursday.

"The number of students in a class can also impact the heat in the classroom too. If you have 33, 36 or 40 kids crammed into a classroom, that temperature rises pretty quickly in comparison to if you had a reasonable number of students."

Becotte said while it is a hard situation to be in, she doesn’t see any immediate fixes.

“There are classes in schools where windows don't open or maybe there aren't windows and there's not enough airflow in the schools,” she said. “This is not a quick solution.”

Installing air conditioning in schools and maintaining school buses are big capital projects that would have to be addressed through operating funds, according to Becotte.

“But so many of our school divisions have depleted their reserves to the point where they are working budget to budget and unless it comes through operating funds, they're just stuck waiting,” she said.

“Many of those capital projects, they take years to plan, they take years to execute and put supports in place to ensure that they have properly supported buildings transportation units and that environments are safe for kids," Becotte said.

Hayden Topliss, a high school student from Yorkton, created an online petition drawing attention to the issue of the lack of air conditioning in schools.

"Honestly, it kinda started as a joke," he said. "Me and my buddies were sitting in ELA and it's super hot in the school, they don't have air conditioning, so I was like, 'What if I just started a petition?'"

The petition received over 700 signatures in less than a day. 

"There are some kids in my class who ended up passing out and had to go home because it's too much," he said. "It is hard to learn and even the teachers are sick of it."

- With files from CTV News Regina's Hallee Mandryk Top Stories

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