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Toronto mother ‘disappointed’ to learn about insufficient heating at son’s school amid cold snap

A Toronto mother wants to know why she wasn’t notified sooner after belatedly finding out that the heater inside her son’s Grade 2 classroom wasn’t functioning amid a frigid cold snap this week.

Katty Kerman tells CTVNewsToronto.ca that some of the heaters at St. Timothy Catholic Elementary School stopped working on Monday, causing the temperature to dip inside her son’s classroom.

But Kerman says that she wasn’t notified at the time and that the school sent a letter home to parents on Wednesday night.

“I was volunteering at the school yesterday afternoon. There was a dance program for my child’s class and he has special needs, he has no speech […] I went to support in the afternoon because there was no support for him. When they went back up from the classroom for a 10-minute snack, I went to the classroom and it was freezing in there,” she said.

“I’m disappointed that we were not given the option from Monday to say ‘Hey, the heater broke today, we don’t know when it’s going to get fixed.’”

Kerman said that her son’s classroom had one small temporary heater when she visited on Wednesday. She said that a thermometer indicated the classroom’s temperature was 16 C at the time, which is two degrees below the workable minimum under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“And that was with the heater in the room,” Kerman said. “It was uncomfortable enough that you will definitely need to wear a sweater and a coat and your hat and your mittens.”

A thermometer displaying the temperature inside a classroom at St. Timothy’s Catholic Elementary School on Jan. 17, 2024. (Katty Kerman)

Another parent told Kerman that their son was holding his ears with his hands to keep them warm.

Kerman said an email wasn’t sent to parents until Wednesday evening, despite the issue being detected days prior.

In the email sent to parents, the school’s principal said parts of the school were not receiving sufficient heat.

“We are writing to inform you that due to technical issues, the heating system at the school is not functioning properly,” the email reads.

“Maintenance staff at the board have made it [a] priority to resolve the issue as soon as possible and technicians have been on-site to fix the system.”

The letter noted that staff would be rotating classes into warmer areas of the school “for an optimum learning environment if needed,” and encouraging parents to bundle their kids up with extra layers of clothing.

A spokesperson for the Toronto Catholic District School Board told CTV News Toronto in an emailed statement that temporary heaters have been provided and alternate spaces like the library and gym are being used to support the affected classrooms.

No timeline has been established on when the heating system will be fixed.

Kerman did not send her children to school Thursday and she said she might not until the heating gets fixed. However, she said she wishes the school could provide more alternatives until then.

“I understand that people are overworked, and you know, there’s shortages of people here and there. I understand all that, but we live in Canada. It’s extreme weather,” Kerman said.

“I think, anyone that owns a house in Canada if something like this happens, your heater breaks its an emergency situation you try to fix it the same day or you remove yourself from the situation to a hotel, a neighbour, or something, and they didn’t do this for our kids. I think those classrooms should have gone online, they should have done something better, and our kids shouldn’t have been in those freezing classes this whole week.”

TORONTO’S COLD SNAP

The city braced itself for a “bitterly cold” week, with temperatures dipping to as low as -25 C with the wind chill Tuesday night.

Residents woke to flurries Tuesday morning, and extreme cold warnings were in effect in Caledon, Halton Hills and Milton, where the wind chill was expected to be near -30 C until Wednesday morning.

Environment Canada forecasts a 60 per cent chance of light snow for Toronto on Friday, with winds cooling temperatures to -17 C. 

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