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Heat and humidity negatively impacting teaching, learning conditions in public elementary school classrooms

September 8, 2016

Heat and humidity in public elementary school classrooms are having an increasingly negative impact on teaching and learning conditions as well as school safety according to the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

“Elementary school classrooms are the least likely to be air-conditioned and high temperatures and humidity are taking their toll on teaching and learning conditions in a growing number of school classrooms,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “Poor indoor air quality is also contributing to mold and moisture damage which present serious health concerns for students and staff.”

Along with global warming, heat and humidity conditions have worsened in school classrooms because of issues such as window replacement that limits window opening, installation of classroom air handling units that move or warm but do not cool air, board-centred controls of classroom temperatures and aging, poorly maintained infrastructure.

Earlier this week, a school in Thames Valley was shut down following an inspection requested by ETFO because high humidity and temperatures had exacerbated historical mold and air handling issues in the school.

Environmental concerns in school communities, including indoor air quality, was identified as a leading health and safety issue for ETFO members in the ETFO MOU Taskforce on Health and Safety Report and Recommendations, an initiative arising from the previous round of bargaining.

“The government needs to review the education funding model to provide a safe work environment for staff and a safe learning environment for elementary students. It needs to make infrastructure in elementary schools a priority,” added Hammond.

“While installation of air conditioning is expensive, there are significant costs in not fixing the problem. Teaching and learning conditions are compromised, there are negative health impacts for students and teachers including asthma, and mold and moisture issues can damage school infrastructure and materials.”

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario represents 78,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. Its Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at