How can we do the same for children heading back to school as we get back to a normal life living with Covid-19 around us? A study back in 2019 by the University of New South Wales had found that Australian classrooms were already registering four times the recommended amount of carbon dioxide. That is well before the COVID-19 pandemic. This poor air quality level has led to increased levels of air contaminants such as bacteria and airborne viruses. Students can also present symptoms such as headaches, runny nose, and inattentiveness. So what does that mean for 2021? We know that COVID-19 transmits between people by breathing in shared air So with poor air quality, we can see further increases in COVID-19 transferred between teachers and students.
Getting back to school is paramount and aids in the development of children, in particular, their mental health and wellbeing. Here we have listed some of how schools can minimise the spread of COVID and other airborne viruses and improve air quality.
According to various research, there are five different kinds of indoor pollutants: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), combustion products, radon, pesticides, dust particles, viruses, and bacteria. With the right ventilation system, schools can decrease pollutants in classrooms. Heading into warmer months, we should encourage teachers to open windows and doors to their classrooms. Ventilation is by far the most effective way of improving airflow throughout various indoor spaces. Plus, increasing airflow from outside to in can help to quickly reduce the potential concentration of virus particles in the air as well.
Use of a CO2 monitor.
A CO2 monitor can help to monitor the air quality within the space. Using the right CO2 monitor can be cost-efficient and are easy to configure. Once activated, this monitor triggers an alarm when CO2 levels go above a designated threshold. Using a CO2 monitor in an area provides a good indication of whether the tools used to improve air quality are working too.
Use air purifiers.
Air purifiers consist of one or more filters that draw in the air and trap pollutants (e.g. formaldehyde, arsenic, benzene), allergens, airborne virus particles and toxins. The filtered and clean air is then pushed out to circulate throughout the room. According to the same study by UNSW, using an air-conditioning system, including split systems, doesn’t provide ventilation.
When using these purifiers, it's important to have the vents and filters regularly cleaned. Dust collection in filters defeats the purpose of air quality monitors in your room.
Staggering start and finish times
In some cases, corridors may not be able to keep up with good ventilation. Consider instead introducing different start and finish times for several grades. Similarly, this can include having several start times for morning, lunchtime and afternoon breaks. It minimises the number of children crowding together in narrow spaces.
Us Aussies are blessed with such great sunshine for most of the year. So why not make the most of the sunny days by having class lessons outside? The outdoors provides all the fresh air you need and can create a more relaxed learning experience. Learning outside may also be a good alternative if the windows in a classroom are difficult to open.
Increased levels of CO2 in any space can lead to headaches, dry eyes and runny nose. But as we know from studies worldwide, it can also lead to high levels of other airborne viruses, not just COVID-19. So to prevent sickness and the spread of infections, adopting one or more of these tools will vastly improve the health of everyone in the room.