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School Facilities

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 10 March 2022

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Questions (73)

Paul Murphy

Question:

73. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to a letter from a union (details supplied) pointing out that the advice of her Department that CO2 concentrations of above 1,400-1,500 parts per million are likely to be indicative of poor ventilation was being publicly challenged by experts in the field and that the union noted that experts maintained that a concentration of 1,000ppm is a more appropriate upper limit for CO2 concentration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13319/22]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Updated guidance for schools on Practical Steps for the Deployment of Good Ventilation Practices in Schools was provided at the end of May 2021 following the work of an expert group that carefully considered the role of ventilation in managing COVID-19. 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 November 2021.

The Expert Group note in its own report that very good advice is contained in the Department of Education’s Practical Steps for the Deployment of Good Ventilation Practices in Schools. They also note that it must be emphasised that ventilation should be delivered as part of a layered strategy of protective measures to control the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Along with these preventative actions, ventilation further reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools.

To date in excess of 42,000 monitors have been dispatched to schools nationwide. Moreover the Department continues to consider requests for additional CO2 monitors. 

The CO2 monitors provided to schools are portable which allows schools to focus their use to those rooms where most beneficial to inform strategies for optimising ventilation in the school.

As noted in the published guidance by the Department in May 2021, “What you need to know about your school’s new carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors”, The monitor can provide information to occupants to indicate levels of poor ventilation. Both the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers and the Air infiltration and Ventilation Centre advise that CO2 concentrations above 1400 – 1500 ppm are likely to be indicative of poor ventilation and therefore require ventilation to be increased by opening windows, doors etc. 

 As you may be aware Deputy, to provide additional support in the context of Covid-19 the payment of a minor works grant totalling €45m for primary schools and special schools, plus a once-off Covid-19 minor works funding of €17m for post-primary schools, was issued in December 2021.

Given that each school setting is different, individual schools are best placed to decide how best to use this funding to address their particular needs.

Specialist advice/assistance of a Chartered Engineer or Registered Architect is an important source of support for schools.  This will help ensure that appropriate solutions are being put in place to address ventilation issues.  Schools that identify inadequate ventilation in a room can utilise their minor work grant or apply for emergency works grant assistance to address ventilation enhancements where the minor work grant does not cover the full cost of the works required.

In the case where a school has difficulty engaging a Chartered Engineer or Registered Architect the Department can assist, with a dedicated ventilation team available to support school principals in this regard.  Schools that identify inadequate ventilation in a room can utilise their minor work grant or apply for emergency works grant assistance to address ventilation enhancements where the minor work grant does not cover the full cost of the works required.

Questions Nos. 74 and 75 answered orally.
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