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Breath of fresh air: EMSB parents, staff welcome news of air purifiers

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Parents relieved EMSB will purchase air purifiers for classrooms' Coronavirus: Parents relieved EMSB will purchase air purifiers for classrooms
WATCH: Some parents and students are breathing a sigh of relief, after the English Montreal School Board announced it will be purchasing 800 air purifiers to improve ventilation in classrooms and common areas. As Felicia Parrillo reports, the Lester B. Pearson school board made the move last month and is already in the midst of installing 420 units to improve ventilation. – Dec 3, 2020

After hearing that the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) will purchase air purifiers for its schools to help curb the spread of COVID-19, Marni Rubin feels like she can breathe a little easier.

Rubin’s two daughters go to Royal Vale School, where the windows are often left open to help the air circulate.

Read more: EMSB to buy air purifiers as Quebecers take issue of ventilation in classrooms into their own hands

Rubin has been pushing for the board to take action on the air quality at the schools and is happy a step has finally been taken.

“It made me feel good that my step forward is showing some kind of benefit,” she said.

“This is one less thing that they have to worry about. They know they’re going to a classroom with clean, filtered air.”

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The EMSB will spend $1.75 million on 800 air purifiers.

Read more: Aerosol spread of coronavirus underscores importance of avoiding ‘three Cs,’ Tam says

In total, 30 buildings will receive them, with schools like Bancroft, Gardenview, LaurenHill, Royal Vale and Royal West getting the most.

“We definitely would like to have them and we are happy to be getting them,” said Sonia Marotta, principal at Honore Mercier School, which will be receiving 29 air purifiers.

EMSB chair Joe Ortona said the board had been considering the move for a while, but did its own assessment over the last few weeks.

“We knew that obviously opening the windows and allowing for natural ventilation was just not practical for the cold winter months.”

Read more: Coronavirus — Doctors, scientists sound alarm over poor ventilation in Montreal-area schools

The EMSB is following in the footsteps of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, which recently spent around $500,000 to buy 420 units for its buildings.

Those air purifiers are currently being installed.

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Ortona said with this additional coronavirus-related expense, he plans on asking the province for a reimbursement.

“Somebody is going to have to make up for these costs,” he said. “So it’s either going to be cuts somewhere or the government is going to have to pay for this — and we expect the government to pay for it.”

Read more: Plans for Montreal schools to open windows for ventilation stir concern

On Wednesday, Quebec’s Education Ministry told Global News a group of experts were currently studying the use of air purifiers in schools.

Premier Francois Legault said that at the moment, there are no plans to purchase them for schools across the province.

“Right now, what public health is telling me is that there’s no reason to believe there is substantially transmission of the virus because we don’t have (air) purifiers,” he said.

The EMSB said its air purifiers should be installed by the end of February.

Visit the EMSB’s website for a full list of schools that will receive the purifiers.

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