Quebec teachers worry about heatwave as fan use is restricted

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“Can’t the government find solutions for us?

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As a heat wave threatens Montreal, teachers fear the intense heat will become unbearable in schools this week while trying to comply with public health measures.

In addition to wearing masks at all times, teachers and school staff have been urged to limit the use of fans or air conditioners during the pandemic for fear that devices will blow around infectious particles.

In a Facebook post shared nearly 15,000 times, a special education technician in a Montreal school invited the Premier of Quebec François Legault or the Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge to visit Monday and experience the heat by themselves.

A separate Facebook page also calls on teachers to take the temperature in their classrooms on Monday and share it online as proof of the heat intensity.

“We’ve heard a lot about the fall semester and proms, but nothing over the next three weeks with the heat coming in,” the woman behind the post said in an interview.

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“I don’t know how we can expect us to have functional days with full face masks, 38 degree weather and no air conditioning or proper fans. “

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, works in a Montreal elementary class with 20 students. She says her students’ concentration levels have plummeted with the onset of warmer weather and the staff are running out of explanations for them.

“We have respected all the measures from the start,” she said. “We are on the front line with the students, we wear our masks at all times. Can the government not find solutions for us?

Environment Canada warned over the weekend that extreme heat is expected in Montreal early this week, with daytime highs exceeding 30 degrees Celsius and humidx values ​​reaching 40 degrees.

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When asked about the situation, a spokesperson for the Quebec Ministry of Education said a letter had recently been sent to school boards and service centers regarding the heat. He informed them that pedestal fans and portable air conditioners can be used this week, “if certain precautions are followed.”

Similar guidelines were issued during a heat wave last summer, advising schools that they could use the devices as long as they kept them away from the faces of students and teachers.

“The level of risk associated with the use of fans and portable air conditioners appears to be low in schools according to public health, especially in extreme heat,” the schools education department told last year. .

“However,” he continued, “public health believes it is important that they are used correctly.”

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The Federation of Teaching Unions, which represents more than 30 affiliated teachers’ unions across Quebec, said it believes the government should have communicated possible solutions to schools sooner.

Spokeswoman Sylvie Lemieux stressed that the problem is not new. Many schools in the province do not have air conditioning, and teachers have raised concerns about sauna-like conditions during heat waves long before the pandemic.

But since last year forced the government to tackle the problem of poor ventilation in schools, Lemieux also said he should take the opportunity to sort the situation out once and for all.

“These hot days will be difficult for students and teachers, and measures must be in place to deal with them,” said Lemieux.

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At least one school board, the Western Quebec School Board, has decided to move most of its distance education schools Monday and Tuesday, due to the heat and “given the specific health circumstances of the current COVID-19 pandemic “.

The English Montreal School Board, for its part, said it will use fans and portable air conditioners this week while “using precautionary measures.”

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