Post-pandemic issues about indoor air quality in schools
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of good ventilation in reducing the spread of airborne viruses and other harmful particles. As students and teachers return to classrooms in this post-pandemic environment, it is crucial to ensure that indoor air quality remains safe and healthy.
However, recent reports have indicated an unseasonal surge in respiratory illnesses and other bacterial infections among children. Here are just some of the alarming updates:
- Health authorities in New South Wales and Victoria have recorded a rise in potentially severe Group A streptococcal infections among children. There have also been emergency cases of children with sore throat, scarlet fever, and skin infections between September and December 2022.
- In the US, a survey of more than 1,000 parents conducted by MyVision.org revealed that 48% of children under the age of 17 have gotten sick during the school year 2022-2023.
- An outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), flu, and Strep A-triggered illnesses has been recorded among children in the UK with 16 deaths since September 2022.
This further emphasizes the need to make necessary improvements in the ventilation systems of educational facilities. Numerous studies have already revealed the negative impact of poor ventilation on the health and learning outcomes of school children. High levels of CO2 in classrooms can result in fatigue, loss of focus, and substandard performance for both the students and teachers. The risk of being infected with respiratory illnesses and other diseases becomes much higher, as evidenced above.
Scientists have highly recommended that monitoring indoor air quality in schools using CO2 sensors is a vital step in providing healthier and safer learning environments.
Improving ventilation with CO2 sensors
In 2021, the University of Queensland conducted a study to assess ventilation in Brisbane classrooms. Led by Dr Stephen Snow, the study involved the installation of CO2 sensors in 67 classrooms at different times. The results concluded that almost two-thirds of the classrooms have shown high levels of carbon dioxide, which placed the students at risk for contracting COVID-19.
The researchers have also discovered that CO2 levels in the high school classroom have exceeded 3,000 parts per million. At this level, students would have substantial discomfort and diminished concentration, hindering them from performing optimally in class, and impede the development of their cognitive performance in the long term.
Dr Snow has advised that all Australian classrooms should be monitored for CO2 levels and to integrate lessons on the importance of healthy air quality as part of the school curriculum. As Dr Snow remarked, “If you’ve got a CO2 monitor, you’re going to have a lot of…monitoring results. If you’ve got data and if you can interpret that data, then you can make better decisions.”
The researchers have also encouraged schools to have regular “ventilation time” in the classrooms. “If you do need the air conditioner on,” said Dr Snow, “Close the windows while it’s running so the room can cool down, but consider opening doors and windows in between lessons or during lunch, to replace the air in the room.“
Associate Professor Donna Green of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) concurs with having CO2 sensors in schools. “Using low-cost sensors inside and outside school buildings, we can find out the actual levels of air pollution. This knowledge would be especially important to provide guidance during heatwaves and bushfires.”
The effect of the Black Summer of 2019-2020 – during which Dapto High School in Wollongong was “shrouded in smoke” — has led Principal Andrew Fitzsimons to become more proactive in finding solutions for better ventilation with the help of UNSW. “When there was an opportunity to have our air monitored, I jumped at it,” he says. The school has maintained healthy air quality, thanks to CO2 sensors that monitor ventilation in the classrooms. As Principal Fitzsimons has noted, “Good learning emerges with clean air.”
Supporting healthy learning spaces with Safetyline Jalousie’s SmartAir System
Safetyline Jalousie, an Australian market leader in producing high-quality louvre window systems and ventilation solutions, strongly supports initiatives to improve ventilation in schools. In collaboration with Blue Squared Window Automation, we have developed the SmartAir System: a pre-programmable, fully automated, tried-and-tested, complete turnkey air quality solution that enables all spaces to monitor temperature, CO2 and humidity.
The SmartAir System’s sensors will accurately inform, cue and operate motorised high-performance louvre windows that have 86% free air coupled with superior sealing capabilities that block wind, water, air and noise. It is readily adaptable to detect morning or night purges, interlock air conditioning, automatically close louvres due to rain or wind, and automatically lock for security without the need for human input. The SmartAir System is our sustainable and future-proof ventilation solution for educational facilities that are looking to improve air quality for better learning and health outcomes.
Based on our insights report, using louvres for natural ventilation with SmartAir System provides more outside air to learning spaces versus the required minimum standards. For the cases tested, 9%,24% and 12% more outside air was provided to learning spaces in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne respectively.
If you would like to improve your building’s ventilation through our SmartAir System, contact us on 1300 863 350 to book a free consult or fill up our contact form. You may also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request our complete SmartAir System Proposal.