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Improving ventilation in schools

| Categories: COVID-19, School buildings

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Clean air is essential for health and learning, and proper ventilation is an important part of COVID-19 health and safety measures in all Vancouver School District schools and workspaces.

With the Provincial Government anticipating a return to in-class instruction for students in September, a Safe Return to School Grant and was announced to help school districts implement new health and safety measures. In addition, the Federal Government also announced a Federal Safe Return to Class Fund for each Province to support return-to-school plans. All schools and worksites in the District operate under health authority requirements, but with this funding, the District was able to invest $950,000 to further improve air ventilation in schools.

In an effort to strengthen COVID-19 safety measures, the District implemented a program to increase outdoor air ventilation and improve air filtration in its facilities.  This included four primary activities:

  • Increasing ventilation times by starting equipment earlier in the day and running longer after occupancy. This required updating computerized controls or manually resetting systems.
  • Increasing the amount of outdoor air to indoor spaces by resetting louvres and controls in ventilation equipment.
  • Upgrading and retrofitting ventilation equipment to “MERV-13” filters, as recommended by the Ministry of Education. Only a small number of units could not be retrofitted due to equipment incompatibility.
  • Ensuring all exterior windows are accessible and can be controlled by staff and students.

Through this process, The District’s ventilation systems were inspected and updated at all 108 schools. Updates included rebuilding aging motors, replacing drive belts, repairing stuck louvres, updating controls and changing over 5000 filters district wide.

In addition, school- based staff are working to reduce time spent indoors whenever possible including moving some activities outdoors (i.e., lunch, classes, physical activity) and utilizing outdoor learning spaces funded through the COVID response grants. 

For more details about the school ventilation improvements read our agenda report from the September 16, 2020 Finance Committee meeting (page 99). Additional information is also available on our website, under COVID-19 Updates.

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