We have been inundated with information about all kinds of interventions related to COVID-19 for schools. We have been developing policies and practices that will implement better social distancing, masks, symptoms monitoring, sanitation, quarantining and other practices. One of the other issues that is important in airborne diseases is ventilation.
As we all prepare for this coming school year, we have become increasingly aware of how well our classroom and facilities are ventilated. Some facilities in schools are quite difficult to achieve good ventilation at an affordable price. There are schools who have no access to outside air which is a huge deficit in attempting to properly ventilate hallways, classrooms and other facilities.
In an article on the CommonHealth website Carey Goldberg writes an article on this very important topic. Here are some key quotes from this article:
With a full gamut of risk-reducing strategies in place, including good ventilation and filters, “you can significantly drive down risk to a level where you wouldn’t expect a case, if you have good compliance with all the strategies,” says Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. He cites hospitals’ success at stemming coronavirus infections as evidence.
Nationally, 90% of schools are under-ventilated, Allen says, and decades of research show that bad air flow harms student health and performance. Now, the pandemic is bringing new urgency to the school air issue.
One key, he says, is bringing in as much outdoor air as possible, so that viral particles don’t build up if someone is sick and shedding virus.
“Think about it in terms of dilution of contaminant in the indoor space,” Allen says. “You either want to dilute it by bringing in more outdoor air, or clean that air to remove the particles. There’s two removal mechanisms: dilution or cleaning.”
As we reopen our schools and actually bring children into our buildings it is important that we recognize the importance of our facility management staff and their expertise in helping us properly ventilate our buildings. In addition, it is equally important that we provide good support for our custodial staff who will be engaged in cleaning our vehicles, bathrooms, hallways, classrooms and other areas. We need to provide them with chemicals that will kill the virus and find ways to sanitize the areas where students are walking and sitting. Also we have to entirely change our food service so that there is no social gathering and sharing of food.
My point is that managing COVID-19 in schools is just not a classroom issue but an entire school staffing commitment. We will be dependent on our buildings and cleaning staff tremendously to keep us all safe in our schools. We must – as a school community – assure that they have the proper equipment and support for the extensive job they will have to do for our schools. This will be an “all-in” effort in order to provide a safe environment for both our students and staff.