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Public schools checking 150,000 classrooms, libraries, halls ahead of return to school

In the 40 so-called sealed schools – which are fully airconditioned with windows that cannot be opened – new filters have been installed in all airconditioning systems and the frequency of filter servicing and cleaning has been increased to occur on a monthly basis.

“The health of students and staff has always been our priority and parents should feel confident their child’s school is well-equipped to keep them as safe as possible.”

Architecture and public health experts say ventilation will be key to ensuring the safety of schools, alongside masks, testing and staying at home with symptoms. Some have called for classrooms to be fitted with carbon dioxide monitors to check airflow.

Non-government schools are also turning their attention to ventilation. Santa Sabina Principal Paulina Skerman said the school would monitor airflow in classrooms in coming weeks to see if any action was necessary.

“Our school is old so most of the rooms are airy with high ceilings, big windows and great airflow,” she said. “If we find that some spaces need attention, we will look at installing HEPA filters to airconditioning to assist with filtration.”

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St Catherine’s School at Waverley is designing a ventilation plan, under which opening windows will become part of the maintenance team’s daily morning schedule. “We are now seeing if we can upgrade our filters to higher efficiency ratings,” said principal Julie Townsend.

“We are also currently researching air purifiers to see which would be suitable for a classroom environment. We will also install CO2 monitors in classrooms so anyone can check that the air is fresh. Of course, we will also encourage teachers to teach outside where it is possible.”

Barker College will undertake a baseline audit of buildings, which will include examining the options available to maximise ventilation, a measurement of adequate airflow and maximum occupancy. “This will provide a spatial map of where we can safely place students and staff on their return,” said Principal Phillip Heath.

Sydney Catholic Schools said it is reviewing every school site’s air quality “as both a routine facilities improvement initiative and in response specifically to the anticipated return to face to face”.

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