Schools have no budget for air, said George Friend, chair of the Building Engineering Services Association ventilation hygiene group at their latest webinar.
Despite fears over the possibility of COVID-19 spreading in poorly ventilated classrooms when schools re-open in September, they will only be able to take very basic indoor air quality precautions due to tight budget constraints.
The Department for Education have provided schools with weekly guidelines on handwashing and social distancing.
However, when it comes to ventilation they have simply advised that schools keep their systems running as normal and switch any mechanical ventilation from recirculation to full fresh air if possible. Alternatively, the guidance has suggested that schools should just open windows.
Garry Ratcliffe, CEO of Galaxy Trust, a federation of three primary schools said at the webinar: ‘Opening windows might be OK for September, but not in November.
‘Also, how do we measure air quality? If there is a problem with the lighting or the heating, we notice, but there is nothing prompting me to put anything into my budget to address air quality even if we know it is bad. We don’t even monitor it.
Mr Ratcliffe highlighted that the cost of extra measures to handle the Covid-19 crisis across his trust was £140,000 of which only £40,000 can be reclaimed from the government.
George Friend added: ‘Schools have a budget for heating and water, but not for the cost of delivering good air quality.
‘However, the current crisis has brought this to peoples’ attention and we should use educational establishments to educate the next generation about these things.
This will help them make informed choices later in life – even about the kind of vehicle they buy.’
Douglas Booker, CEO of the National Air Quality Testing Services based at Lancaster University, added: ‘Covid-19 is a short-term challenge, but solving air quality in classrooms needs a long-term strategy and we can piggyback on things like the initiatives many schools are taking over traffic pollution.
‘Monitoring will be increasingly important and is now being seen as more of a priority due to the likelihood of airborne transmission of the virus.
‘Opening windows and turning up ventilation systems to the maximum is not a sustainable long-term strategy, particularly in light of our net-zero carbon targets and the need to improve energy efficiency.’
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