Schools Reopening: The Next Issue Lies With Ventilation

Published On September 17, 2020 | By Nicholas Rahmon | COVID-19, News

As Olivia Serratore closed her laptop after the first week of online classes at Wilfrid Laurier University, she didn’t know what to make of online learning.

“The online learning environment is a bit difficult to navigate compared to in-person classes,” Serratore said.

Manytudents, like Serratore, will be navigating through a new classroom environment this year with a concern masks won’t be enough to protect them in poorly ventilated schools.

According to a Rapid Evidence Report conducted by Alberta Health Services under their COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group, “there is epidemiologic evidence that HVAC conditions may have contributed to transmission of SARSCOV-2 in community settings including a restaurant, call centre and airplane.”

Ontario’s elementary and secondary schools are gradually reopening and hallways resemble an abstract painting as the blur of students filter into school with masks despite new COVID-19 cases surpassing 300 on Sept.16.

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When containing the virus in a school setting, along with the implementation of firm social distancing policies, a school’s air filtration system is more important than ever to ensure classrooms remain an environment to learn safely and effectively.

Haydar Esendemir, a mechanical foreman with Yorktowne Air Inc. with 11 years of experience, believes air filters within schools should remain a priority throughout the year.

“I suggest better filtration and more often. I’d say every month depending on what the conditions of the environment will be, [rather than four times a year,]” he said.

“You can always get better filtration like a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter or those found in a hospital and change it more often,” Esendemir said.

HEPA separates itself from the average classroom filter as it can trap 99.97 per cent of particles sitting within the air and holds a lifespan of up to five years, according to The Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology.

The Toronto District School Board established a Questions and Answers section on its website to offer answers about any possible concerns by parents about the new measures.

The necessary precautions being set is something Antonio Di Marco, a Toronto elementary school teacher at St. Mary Catholic School, calls the new normal.

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“We [the faculty] need to ensure proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for both staff and students,” Di Marco said. “This includes disposable medical masks for students as well as staff along with hand sanitizer, face shields, and cleaner. Also ensuring that we try to social distance the best we can.

“Our school board is slowly bringing students back into the school safely in small-sized groups. Recesses are socially distanced, and classes use a variety of entrance/exit doors to get in and out for safety. It is an adjustment that will take time for all; hence the ‘new normal’,” he said.

For Serratore communication is important.

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“I feel that universities should hold online meetings to discuss awareness and policy. COVID-19 is a serious issue that is difficult to work around in a crowded campus community with teenagers who want the entire experience,” Serratore said.

In a statement for those concerned about the procedures of online learning and whether a return to campus is imminent, Wilfrid Laurier established “The Pandemic Recovery Steering Group (PRSG) is overseeing the development of re-opening plans for the university’s operations, in support of the academic plans that have been developed.”

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