Lester B. Pearson board buying air purifiers for some schools; other boards resort to open windows

SCHOOL CLASSROOM

It's been nice and warm lately but it's going to get colder eventually, starting later this week - and that's prompting increased concerns about teachers and students being cooped up in schools this winter and spreading COVID even further during the second wave. 

The Lester B. Pearson Board intends to spend half a million dollars on improving air circulation for some of its schools that need it.

"We do have 16 schools that are either fully or naturally ventilated or partially naturally and partially mechanically ventilated and for those schools, we're looking at installing HEPA air purifiers," said assistant director general Carol Heffernan.

Pending tonight's board vote on the resolution concerning the purifiers, the 420 units should be installed over the next few weeks.

The other schools that are mechanically ventilated will depend on opening up the dampers for more fresh air into the buildings.

Heffernan said it's hoping for more financial aid from the Quebec government to help pay for the air purifiers.

"We have received a bit of money from the government towards COVID expenses but unfortunately, the money we received to date isn't even paying off our teachers in distance learning
so we're hoping there's going to be additional funding but if that is not the case, what we'll be doing, instead of replacing desks and chairs in classrooms, we'll be buying these air purifiers," said Heffernan in an interview with CJAD 800.

Some boards such as the EMSB will be keeping the windows open when students are not in the classroom. 

The Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers said school boards have been reassuring them about proper ventilation even in schools with no windows.

"I'm not reassured - especially when you think about what has been mentioned by the Canadian Public Health Agency recently. They updated their recommendations that there's a risk of  aerosol transmission and that ventilation has become a really important factor," said QPAT president Heidi Yetman.

"It's something that we've been concerned about from the get-go," said Yetman.

"If I was a teacher in the classroom, I would definitely have a window open throughout the winter just because that's what's going to prevent the spread - is if we have a circulation of air."

Yetman said they haven't gotten a reply from the Quebec government to their request for mobile ventilation systems.

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