Ottawa public school board says work will continue through the fall to upgrade ventilation and filtration systems in schools

OTTAWA — Ottawa’s public school board says work will continue through the fall on upgrades to school ventilation and filtration systems as students return to the classroom for a second full school year during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Meantime, hundreds of portable air filtration units have been installed in classrooms, all junior and senior kindergarten classes and isolation rooms at schools across the city.

A report for Tuesday’s special Ottawa Carleton District School Board meeting provides an update on upgrades to ventilation systems, filtration and COVID-19 related projects ahead of the start of the school year.

The Ministry of Education provided guidance this summer on where additional ventilation support through the supply of high-efficiency particulate air filtration units (HEPA) should be installed. HEPA filtration units are required to be placed in the following spaces in buildings:

  • All occupied learning environments in schools or parts of schools without mechanical ventilation
  • Kindergarten classrooms in schools with mechanical ventilation

The OCDB says to date, 1,250 units have been deployed at the following classrooms in Ottawa Carleton District School Board schools:

  • Classrooms where increased ventilation measures were not possible due to the nature of the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) equipment
  • Isolation rooms with a higher potential for airborne virus particles
  • Classrooms where the more important steps of wearing masks, hand washing and distancing may not be achievable (e.g. all specialized program classrooms);
  • All junior and senior kindergarten rooms

Earlier this month, the Ontario announced an additional $25 million to buy HEPA filtration units.

OCDSB staff say the board will receive 780 units from that funding, and will be deployed to learning spaces including libraries, learning commons, gymnasiums and portable classrooms.

The HEPA units are expected to arrive by the first week of September.

Ottawa’s public school board will receive an additional $161,000 in funding to purchase an extra 200 HEPA units.

“Facilities staff will keep a surplus of units on hand for quick deployment in the event additional areas of a building are identified to require additional filtration, a community outbreak of COVID-19 or a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system failure,” says the memo.

“HEPA units will also be deployed to those buildings where ventilation upgrade projects are currently ongoing.”

WORK CONTINUING THIS FALL

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board says various ventilation, filtration and COVID-19 related projects will continue through the fall, with an anticipated completion date of January 2022. The work includes:

  • Portable unit ventilator replacements
  • Permanent installations (ultra-violet filtration systems and MERV-13 upgrades)
  • HVAC upgrades
  • Magnetic door hold open devices

Staff say all schools will be provided with upgraded filtering either by augmenting existing filters to MERV-13 type or by introducing UV filtration systems.

“This work is ongoing and will continue through the fall.”

Additional CO2 monitors continued to be installed, and all schools will have central CO2 monitoring capabilities by late fall.

“The intent of the CO2 monitoring is to help identify possible ventilation issues within a building so that the proper resources can be quickly dispatched to physically identify and correct any deficiencies,” states the memo.

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board will launch a new dashboard the week of Aug. 23 outlining the school-by-school building ventilation type and measures taken or in progress.  

The Ottawa Catholic School Board installed 650 HEPA filtration units in 83 schools last year, with another 386 units going into schools this year. Other projects include installing 200 UV ceiling light circulation fans and installing unit ventilators in over 200 portables.

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