Inventory also finds seven classrooms without windows and doors to let in fresh air to spread the virus
Teachers and students in about 250 Burnaby classrooms will have to continue to rely on stand-alone air scrubbers and open doors and windows to keep the air clear of coronavirus until the school district gets funding for HVAC upgrades.
The district inventoried all of its classrooms last year to gauge what ventilation improvements were needed to stop the airborne spread of the coronavirus in local schools, Secretary-Treasurer Russell Horswill said.
In schools with ventilation systems, he said the district upgraded the filters to MERV (Minimum Efficiency Report Value) 13 and started circulating air through the classrooms more often.
But the inventory also revealed about 250 classrooms that were not connected to ventilation systems.
“Some of our older schools don’t have ventilation systems,” Horswill told the… NOW. “They would have heating systems, but they would have relied on opening windows and doors to get fresh air into the classrooms.”
Those schools will continue to rely this year on opening windows and doors for fresh air — and ramping up their heating systems to make up for the lost heat, Horswill said.
But seven of the schools that aren’t connected to ventilation systems also don’t have exterior doors or windows that let in fresh air.
Before that, the district had to rely on stand-alone air scrubbers to remove the virus from the air.
(All portable appliances have standalone furnace systems that bring in fresh air, according to Horswill, so they’re “no concern” to the district.)
When it comes to ventilation, local schools are in about the same position as they were in June, Horswill said.
And other than capital financing for major HVAC upgrades (something Horswill says will be included in this year’s request for capital financing), there isn’t much more that can be done, he said.
“I would say we work as efficiently as possible,” he said.
In the meantime, Burnaby Teachers’ Association president Daniel Tétrault told the… NOW teachers at the district’s older schools are concerned about relying on air washers and opening doors and windows.
“That was done last year,” he says, “but that was without the Delta variant. There is the unknown of the Delta variant in these classrooms without the up-to-date, adequate ventilation.”
Tétrault acknowledged that the district needs provincial funding to address the problem.
But given their concerns about ventilation and the portability of the Delta variant, which has become the most dominant strain of the coronavirus since last school year, primary school teachers are even more frustrated by the lack of a provincial mask mandate for kindergarten students. up to class 3, according to Tétrault.
The fact that many younger children have come to school for the first few days this week to voluntarily wear masks doesn’t change that, he said.
“Our teachers and staff at Burnaby have done a really good job of creating that culture of wearing masks,” he said, “but the mask mandate takes a bit of that burden off teachers and adds that extra security and directs that clear message to parents and the community.”