As students and staff prepare for a return to face-to-face learning, the NSW government has begun a comprehensive review of ventilation in public schools. Described as a “mammoth undertaking”, it will look at 2,200 schools in the public system, which has more than 50,000 learning spaces.
Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell says the Department of Education is carrying out a systematic review of all learning spaces, including libraries and halls, to ensure all schools continued to operate in the safest ways possible.
“We are working with our schools to develop their specific return-to-school plans and implement the relevant on-site restrictions; while this occurs we are also making sure each room is suitable for students’ return,” Mitchell says.
“Most NSW public schools have openable windows. The review will ensure that all windows operate efficiently, allowing natural ventilation, and that ceiling fans and air conditioning systems are operating effectively and serviced regularly.”
According to the government, schools with air conditioning systems are also being checked to ensure they are fully operational, and the frequency of filter servicing and cleaning will be increased.
Major media outlets have also reported that non-government schools are also in the process of assessing ventilation in learning spaces, with some considering CO2 monitors and air purifiers.
The review is informed by NSW Health and research such as the NCIRS report COVID-19 Delta variant in schools and early childhood education, which has shown high levels of transmission of COVID-19 in schools and early childhood education and care services.
Meanwhile, when questioned about measures that would be implemented in public schools in Victoria, Deputy Premier James Merlino noted that different strategies were being considered.
“We’ve got a range of things that we’re working on,” says Merlino. “Whether it’s the use of CO2 monitors, air purifiers – there are a whole range of mitigation strategies in place.”
Merlino says that the government is working on the latest modelling from the Burnett Institute this week and planned to have a clear plan for the rest of the school year well before Term 4, which begins on October 4.