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Minister Norma Foley says schools don’t need air monitors to beat Covid-19

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Minister for Education Norma Foley pictured during budget briefing at the Dept of Education in Dublin.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath 14/10/20

Minister for Education Norma Foley pictured during budget briefing at the Dept of Education in Dublin.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath 14/10/20

Minister for Education Norma Foley pictured during budget briefing at the Dept of Education in Dublin.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath 14/10/20

Education Minister Norma Foley has effectively ruled out giving schools money to buy air quality monitors for classrooms to help in the battle against Covid – although she says she will keep the matter under review.

Teacher unions have been campaigning for air monitoring systems to help guide staff in deciding when windows should be opened to improve ventilation and, thereby, reduce the risk of infection.

With schools facing into the coldest months of the year there is concern about how to strike the right balance between a freeflow of clean air and warmth, with unions warning that severe weather could close classrooms.

Ms Foley told the Dáil that the Department of Education did not consider it necessary for schools to install air monitors, but said she would keep the matter and supporting data under review.

She said air monitors would not increase the air temperature in a room and schools had been issued with updated guidance on ventilation practices, which relied on practical, common sense and there was “an abundance of that in schools."

In response to questions from Sinn Fein education spokesperson Donnchadh O’Laoghaire, the minister said schools could choose to use minor works grants funding to pay for such systems themselves. That is likely to get a chilly response from unions.

The ventilation guidance, which issued to schools in recent days, states that following the practical steps outlined in the document would amount to the same as having an air quality monitoring system.

The core of the advice is that windows should be open as fully as possible when classrooms are not in use and partially open when classrooms are in use.

It says that it is worth noting that windows do not need to be open as wide in windy/colder weather in order to achieve the same level of airflow into the classroom, which would help to comfort levels.

Schools are advised that rooms should be well ventilated before occupancy each day and this could be achieved by ensuring that when classes finish, the windows in each room are opened for at least 15 minutes.

For the first class on the following school day, consideration should be given to maintaining partially opened windows, it states.

Windows should also be open at break times and at lunchtimes for at least 15 minutes where possible.

In colder weather any local chilling effect can be offset by partially opening the windows nearest and above the radiators, the advice adds.

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