THORNHILL, ONT. — The Ontario government has announced new funding of $25 million to improve ventilation in schools this fall.
The funding, which brings the net new investments in school ventilation to $600 million, is intended to ensure all occupied classrooms, gyms, libraries and other instructional spaces without mechanical ventilation have standalone high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units in place when students are back in class, including junior and senior kindergarten classrooms in mechanically ventilated schools where pupils will not be wearing masks in the classroom, stated an Aug. 4 release.
Ontario’s Science Advisory Table, as part of its science brief on school-based measures, identified the use of standalone HEPA filter units as a strategy for classrooms and spaces with challenges in achieving adequate ventilation. Approximately 20,000 standalone HEPA filter units have been procured through the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and will be deployed to school boards where needed. The remaining funding will be allocated to school boards to procure additional standalone HEPA filter units.
“With yesterday’s (Aug. 3) release of health and safety measures for schools, students have a safe path to return to a more normal, in-person, full-time learning environment, which is critical to their mental and physical health,” said Stephen Lecce, minister of education, in a statement. “We are following the best expert advice by ensuring all schools have improved air ventilation, including deploying an additional 20,000 HEPA units, in total over 70,000 ventilation devices, to help ensure schools remain as safe as possible.”
The government will also provide school boards with a standardized reporting tool on ventilation improvements. The tool will communicate school-level ventilation measures online to ensure that information is publicly available across the province, including inspection, use of standalone HEPA filter units, use of higher-grade filters and more frequent filter changes.
Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s medical officer of health, commented, “There is benefit to improving ventilation in indoor settings to enhance both overall indoor air quality and COVID-19 risk reduction in schools. We must also continue to follow all other public health measures and I encourage everyone eligible to receive their vaccines to help avoid a resurgence of cases.”