How schools in Australia are making COVID-safe classrooms for returning students



Like so many others, learning at home was a challenge for the girls.

“I really want to go back to school so that I can learn face to face because online learning is very bad for my motivation,†Karla said.

Read more

Image to know more about the article

The Victorian, ACT and NSW governments have all announced a phased return for in-person learning between October and November as they battle their COVID-19 outbreaks and vaccination rates rise.

School staff and principals are now working to put COVID safety measures in place, including ventilation mechanisms to improve the quality of the air that students and teachers breathe.

Occupational hygienist Kate Cole specializes in workplace safety and has provided advice on ventilation during the pandemic.

“When we have people in indoor spaces, it creates a high risk environment because people generate aerosols,†she said.

Canberra sisters Kristan and Karla on the return to class

Ms Cole says that while vaccination, mask wear and sanitation are important, creating safe indoor airspace is also crucial in preventing disease transmission.

“A lot of schools are what we would call naturally ventilated, which means they have windows, which we want to bring fresh air into these spaces – but that’s not always possible and always effective, we So tend to replace these processes by bringing in a portable HEPA air filtration.

HEPA filters – high efficiency particulate absorbent – work by trapping particles such as pollen, dust and smoke as they suck in the surrounding air. Studies show that they can also capture COVID-19 particles.

Read more

Image for more on article

ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said improving ventilation in classrooms has been a key area in recent years, including equipping schools with carbon dioxide sensors to manage air quality during bushfire seasons.

“We have been installing CO2 monitors since 2018 and will be putting more of them as we lead this gradual return to face-to-face learning,†Ms. Berry said.

In Victoria, some schools will soon receive air purification devices and CO2 monitors as part of a multi-million dollar COVID-19 investment.

But so far, there is no confirmation on which campuses will receive the technology, and in the meantime, schools are manipulating classroom spaces themselves to increase ventilation.

Karla Velasquez

Source: SBS News

Helene Hiotis, principal of Bentleigh Secondary College in Melbourne, said her school will open all windows, test ceiling fans and space students out in classrooms when they return in person.

“We are adding extra tables and chairs so that we can safely remove students,†Ms. Hiotis said.

“We also installed sticky mats on the floor, carpet and concrete to remind students to safely distance themselves. “

She said her school is also running a campaign for mask wear and hand hygiene.

“What worries us are the kinds of statistics that come to us, suggesting that young people are spreading it a lot more than others and I think what we are trying to do is continue to educate our students,” she declared.

Ventilation options in NSW are still being evaluated and the state government has yet to order air filters.

A private school in Sydney consulted an engineer to improve airflow in their classrooms.

“We are trying to maximize cross ventilation, we are opening windows wherever possible and improving our air conditioning,” said John Collier, principal of St Andrews Cathedral School.

“We are improving our filters, in some areas we are installing HEPA filters, and we are introducing carbon dioxide monitors as a pilot.”

Dr John Collier outside St Andrews Cathedral School in Sydney

But Dr Collier said he was still concerned about vaccinating his young cohorts who are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine.

“The biggest problem is to bring back the bulk of the students there, some of whom have not had the opportunity to be [vaccinated],” he said.

Internationally, many schools that use mandatory masks and increase ventilation have seen lower COVID-19 transmission rates and fewer student absences.

There are calls across the UK for a mask warrant to resume in schools as cases of COVID-19 skyrocket among children.

Ms Cole said the experience of schools in San Francisco also shows that strict security measures work.

“They had 90 percent of children aged 12 and over fully immunized. We know the children in these schools wore masks and we know they used HEPA air filtration in classrooms where ventilation was inadequate – and despite more than 100 daily cases of COVID in this area, they do. had a very small amount. “



Leave A Reply