The daily number of COVID-19 cases remains high in Quebec and schools are preoccupied with their ventilation systems in order to limit the spread of the virus.
“It’s one of the biggest issues teachers have,” said Heidi Yetman, Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers president.
Quebec school boards and service centres are making sure classrooms are ventilated. That’s a challenge for many, including the English Montreal School Board (EMSB). Many of its schools are old and don’t have mechanical ventilation systems.
As a result, the board says it will be leaving classroom windows open — a situation that is less than ideal given that winter is coming.
“We’re going to open the windows when the students are not in class, when it gets too cold, but we do want to ventilate throughout the day,” said Evelyne Alfonsi, EMSB interim director-general.
Alfonsi said she hopes there will soon be funds from the ministry to upgrade the schools, but nothing has been determined yet.
Yetman said she is concerned after listening to the premier last week.
“He said the worst thing you can do is be inside with a bunch of people for more than 15 minutes. That’s what our teachers are doing every single day,” she said.
The issue of school ventilation is not new — older schools have been forced to open windows in order to circulate the air for years.
“The whole education industry is like a dinosaur industry. It’s really time for innovation,” said Katherine Korakakis, president of the English Parents’ Committee Association.
However, Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) said it is prepared. It has ordered filters for schools with mechanical ventilation and for those without, it said it plans to purchase 420 HEPA air purifiers.
“We’ve had different parents and teachers say, ‘Well, I’ll just pick one up at Canadian Tire,’ but those aren’t designed to do a full classroom with 20 or 25 students in it,” said Carol Heffernan, LBPSB assistant director-general.
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge declined a request for an interview with Global News, but in a statement, he said the school network is responsible for ensuring the ventilation is adequate and if not, school service centres and boards have the necessary means to replace them.