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Few schools in Quebec have air-conditioned classrooms

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With summer fast approaching, elementary and high school students across Montreal say they're dreading being in the classroom because there is no air conditioning.

"It's rough in there," said Khayyam Cesar-Mohammed, a Secondary 4 student at Westmount High. "It is hot. It is very sweaty. It's hard."

In fact, very few schools in Quebec have air-conditioned classrooms.

"I think the cost is probably prohibitive. It's not something that school boards could afford on their own," said Mike Cohen, a spokesperson with the English Montreal School Board (EMSB). "Probably the government can't afford it either."

Cohen says some rooms have air-conditioning, like the library at Verdun Elementary, but not a single classroom does.

"We're lucky if we can get them in there for 30 minutes but it's very difficult to get work done while they're in the classroom because the heat level just rises and rises," said Tracy Kenny, a special education technician at Verdun Elementary.

At the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB), only four out of 44 schools are fully air-conditioned.

With the increased likelihood of heatwaves during the school year due to climate change, some parents say they don't understand why buying air conditioners isn't a higher priority.

"At least they have fans that can assist but I think an air conditioner could be a key investment," said parent Jerry Tam.

In response to criticisms, Quebec Education Minister Bernard Drainville blamed the ageing infrastructure.

"Teachers or parents buying air conditioners, if they want to bring it into the classroom, as long as the technical criteria are respected, let them do it," he said.

He states the government is focusing on modernizing the buildings, and asks that schools be flexible.

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