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As temperatures soar, Regina parents keep kids home from schools with no air conditioning

With no air conditioning available at their kids' schools, some Regina parents are opting to keep their children home as temperatures rise.

Jacqueline McIlmoyl has four kids, ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 5, who attend Massey School. She said she has kept them home every afternoon since Friday, because the school does not have air conditioning She says fans and open windows are not enough.

“We're kind of playing it by ear depending on the weather, but so far, yeah, the plan is to send them in the morning so they get some school and then bring them home at 11:45 a.m. and just keep them home for the day, so that's what we've done all week,” McIlmoyl said.

She said while her kids are missing some classes, they’re glad to have the chance to cool off at home.

“They're happy not to go back because they are so uncomfortable and they're really just exhausted,” she said.

“It takes them a while before they even really feel good enough to get going at anything.”

McIlmoyl said although she has not yet brought her concerns to the school board or staff, she knows the teachers are aware because it’s hard for them as well.

“They're all trying their best, certainly. We've gotten reminders to send extra water, freeze a bottle of water to send for the afternoon, dress up accordingly. We've gotten those reminders because it is so hot in school,” she said.

“There's only so much you can do enclosed in school with no air conditioning,” she added. “If there are 25 kids in a classroom, and you have the fans blowing, it's not cooling anyone off, right?”

The mom of four said she knows other people who are keeping their kids home due to the heat.

“I know my neighbour across the street is keeping her kids home for the afternoons as well. I know she's been doing a lot, and I have a couple of friends at other public schools in the city who I know are keeping her kids home due to the heat as well. So it's not just Massey,” she noted.

While McIlmoyl said she and her husband are lucky to have the option, she noted that not everyone has that opportunity to keep their kids home.

“I think it's just important that people know how hard it really is inside those classrooms. Just to be able to advocate for the students,” she said. “I’m fortunate I can bring my kids home but I also know that there’s so many families that don’t have a choice in the matter.”

Terry Lazarou, supervisor of communications for Regina Public Schools, said every year, they anticipate high temperatures in June, as well as late August and September when students and staff are in school.

“Some of our newer schools do have air conditioning and many of our [portable] classrooms, some of which are at older schools, also have air conditioning,” Lazarou said in an email to CTV News, noting that many of the public schools were never designed with air conditioning.

He said many schools have to get creative with using available resources in hot weather.

“[They] will make use of fans, open windows where possible and appropriate, and take the opportunity to engage in learning outdoors,” he said. “In cases of extreme heat, our facilities staff will bring in industrial fans to circulate the air and create cooling drafts.”

He said retrofitting existing schools with HVAC systems can be extremely costly, and there are no concrete plans to install air conditioning at older schools right now.

Twylla West, communications for Regina Catholic Schools, said some of the Catholic schools are equipped with air conditioning as well.

“Others rely on alternative methods. Staff opens windows, uses fans, encourages water breaks and uses outdoor spaces shade to help stay cool,” she said in an email to CTV News.

McIlmoyl said schools should consider sending kids home on extremely hot days.

“I feel like at some point, yeah, I think that the school needs to be like, 'class cancelled,' simply because it's not safe for the kids but it's also not safe working conditions for the adults as well,” she said.

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