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Covid-19 Pandemic

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 30 November 2021

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Questions (364)

Réada Cronin

Question:

364. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Education if there is a clean-air strategy in place for primary schools given growing international evidence over the past 20 months that Covid-19 is airborne and the fact this cohort remains unprotected through vaccination; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [59040/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department’s ventilation guidance for schools is very clear and practical on the steps to be taken by all schools to manage ventilation levels.

Managing ventilation is just one of a suite of public health measures in place to keep our schools safe. Updated guidance for schools on Practical Steps for the Deployment of Good Ventilation Practices in Schools was provided at the end of May following the work of an expert group that carefully considered the role of ventilation in managing COVID-19. A copy of the guidance is published on the Gov.ie website. The updated guidance for schools is also fully in line with the most recent guidance on non-healthcare building ventilation during COVID-19, published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre last Thursday November 18th.

The Expert Group note in its own report notes “very good advice is contained in the Department of Education s Practical Steps for the Deployment of Good Ventilation Practices in Schools”

The over-arching approach for schools should be to have windows open as fully as possible when classrooms are not in use (e.g. during break-times or lunch-times and also at the end of each school day) and partially open when classrooms are in use. It is worth noting that windows do not need to be open as wide in windy/colder weather in order to achieve the same level of airflow into the classroom. This will assist in managing comfort levels in classrooms during periods of colder weather.

Deployment of the above measures can be supplemented and enhanced by the use of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) monitors. These monitors can provide a useful general indication that areas/ rooms may not be adequately ventilated and can enable occupants to become familiar with the impact of activities, outdoor weather and window openings on levels of good ventilation within a room.

The guidance outlines that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) monitors can play a part in providing a useful general indication that areas/rooms may not be adequately ventilated. They can enable occupants to become familiar with the impacts of activities, outdoor weather and window openings on levels of good ventilation. The provision of portable CO2 monitors provides schools with the flexibility to focus their use to those rooms where most beneficial to inform strategies for optimising ventilation in the school.

In excess of 35,400 monitors were delivered to schools nationwide at a cost of circa €4 million.

The Department considers the above practical steps and stepwise approach are sufficient to ensure good ventilation practices in school while at the same time ensuring an appropriate balance between ventilation and comfort.

A dedicated team has been established in the Department to support schools that may have concerns about ventilation. Officers are also available to contact schools where required, walking through the steps the schools should take to deploy good ventilation practices etc. Where it is not possible for a school to access the expertise of an engineer or architect, and where necessary, a technical assessment to assist the school can be facilitated through the Department.

Schools that identify inadequate ventilation in a room can utilise their minor work grant (for minor improvements) or apply for emergency works grant assistance to address ventilation enhancements on a permanent basis.

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