What steps are being taken to improve air quality in our schools?

air quality in our schools

Image: Pixabay

While regions across the state are still grappling to contain the spread of COVID-19, a tentative agreement has been reached to reopen schools under the San Francisco Unified School District for in-person instruction. As it stands right now, teachers unions are leading the battle against the reopening of schools in the name of health and safety. Teachers are demanding schools stay in remote learning until proper safety measures have been put in place.

Meanwhile the Biden administration is urging the reopening of schools in hopes of getting back to a normal life sooner rather than later. School districts across California already have put in place safety strategies such as hand sanitizing stations, mask-wearing, smaller class sizes and air purifiers to welcome students back to cleaner learning environments. But this isn’t the case for all schools, especially the ones lacking funds from local governments and entities. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan to release new guidelines for getting children back into the school environment, says CNN. 

The harsh reality is many of America’s schools are aging and in dire need of repairs, particularly in low-income neighborhoods. And many of those schools have classrooms that are inadequately ventilated. Supporting risk mitigation indoors by implementing modern air cleaning technologies can help limit the spread of airborne pollutants. Increasing air ventilation in classrooms should top the list of upgrades needed to decrease transmission risk in these buildings and prevent illnesses from airborne infections

What causes bad air quality in classrooms?

Poor air ventilation. Indoor air contaminants such as dust and mould tend to spread more rapidly when the ventilation in the room is poor causing coughing, sneezing, headaches and loss of concentration in some students. Many of the schools our students attend have old bones and with wear and tear unfortunately comes more allergens. Now more than ever, clean air has become a necessity for students and teachers alike. While educators have been instructed to open windows to help with circulation, the air coming in from the outdoors isn’t necessarily cleaner. Schools located near high traffic zones like major highways and industrial plants may be letting in pollution caused by factories and other sources. 

Why is healthy air important in schools?

The World Health Organization has stressed the negative impacts of long-term pollution on our lungs for decades. Short-term effects are equally important. In a school setting, many students will lose focus if the air quality in their classrooms is poor. And we mustn’t forget about the educators either – not only do they find it harder to focus on the act of teaching, but trying to get students to listen in an environment that makes focusing difficult, is that much more problematic. The adverse effects on the well-being of those learning as well as teaching – especially in this COVID era – multiply. 

How schools are taking action

By keeping the airflow moving. The coronavirus has unquestionably presented public health officials with various challenges including how to prevent transmission of viruses in schools and indoor spaces. Many aging buildings aren’t equipped with the right air cleaning technology, leading school administrators to consider supplementing existing ventilation for advanced room air purifiers that benefit children and their instructors. Companies such as IQAir are continuously working on making healthy indoor air we breathe, a priority. Their air purifying solutions help create better living and learning environments through sophisticated air filtration systems.

Does air filtration help protect against COVID?

Image: Pixabay

IQAir seems to believe it can, in long-range (airborne) transmission form. Their air filters are designed to capture tiny particles, including viruses such as COVID-19 that can remain in the air for longer periods of time. This in no way means you should solely depend on air purifiers to kill the coronavirus however paired with appropriate precautionary actions such as consistent hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters do in fact, remove airborne particles from the air.  

Now with California’s first cases of the more contagious South African variant identified in the Bay Area, it’s safe to say this pandemic won’t be gone soon enough. The new variants appear to be more easily transmitted from person to person. Mass vaccinations and testing take time to roll out and are not always readily available to everyone, all the time. That’s all the more reason to invest in improving ventilation systems for future waves and outbreaks.

While there has been a lot of back and forth discussion on whether to re-open classrooms for in-person learning, there are private and public schools already on the path to becoming Clean Air Schools. With the help of air cleaning technology classrooms will be ready to welcome students and teachers back with arms wide open.  

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