Calls have been growing from parents and community groups to improve the air quality in classrooms and now some Edmonton schools are making changes.
Edmonton Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools announced they are both installing new air filters in their systems.
Edmonton Catholic Schools won’t be using stand-alone HEPA filters, but will instead use Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13-rated filters, which it said is slightly better than what is in a typical home furnace filter.
“This process is currently underway and will be completed in the coming weeks. MERV 13 filtration will be the division standard moving forward,” Edmonton Catholic Schools said in a news release.
Edmonton Public Schools said it will also be installing MERV 13 filters in its schools. However, it will also consider using HEPA filters, depending on the type of building or classroom.
“With 212 unique schools (in age and size), we won’t have a one-size-fits all approach,” a spokesperson said via email Wednesday.
“Based on updated ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers) recommendations, we are looking at a number of options… In other cases, where installation of MERV-13 filters is not possible, we will be installing in-room air cleaners with either HEPA or MERV-13 filters.”
Fresh Air Schools Alberta is a community organization calling on the province to fund HEPA filters or other filtration units.
“A lot of parents are becoming aware of this now and it’s becoming a bigger issue,” Amanda Hu, with Fresh Air Schools Alberta, said.
“We have ventilation experts, professional engineers who are trained to do this, to be consulted and make sure that we are measuring the performance of ventilation.”
Edmonton parent Marie Watts has two children enrolled with Edmonton Public Schools. She said she is nervous to send her kids back to the classroom next week without HEPA filters or air purification devices.
“I think it’s critical that we get these into schools as quickly as possible,” Watts said. “Frankly, I think we should keep kids home until we get them into schools.”
Edmonton Public Schools recently posted a request for quote (RFQ) for air purifier units on its website.
“We issued this request over the winter recess so we could expedite implementation of these units where needed. At this time, we do not have any additional information to share on this request for proposal,” a spokesperson said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says proper ventilation can help reduce the risk of COVID-19 and the use of HEPA filters could be considered as additional protection.
However, the PHAC says portable HEPA air filters should not be used as a replacement for proper indoor ventilation.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said schools have been focusing on ensuring their HVAC systems are running efficiently, but she does not generally encourage the use of stand-alone HEPA filters.
“A HEPA filter system that can be placed in a classroom… unless the overall system is looked at by experts sometimes that actually can be more of a hinderance than an improvement to the system,” LaGrange said.