2021-22 School Operations: Ventilation and Air Quality
The school board will continue to optimize air quality in classrooms and learning environments through improving ventilation and/or filtration. Ventilation is one layer of the protective strategies that will be utilized to support healthy and safe learning environments for students and staff. Additional measures such as masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene must also be followed.
The UGDSB will follow best practices with regards to ventilation and air quality, as detailed below.
For buildings/rooms that rely on natural ventilation/no HVAC system, best practices include:
- Opening windows for short times at intermittent intervals, if safe to do so
- Assessing exhaust systems
- Placing standalone air cleaner/High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter unit(s) in the room/space without mechanical ventilation
- Ensure that standalone air cleaner/HEPA filter units are cleaned and maintained, following manufacturer’s instructions
For buildings/rooms that rely on mechanical ventilation/HVAC systems, best practices include:
- Regularly maintain systems (per Ministry checklists)
- Optimize for respiratory particle removal
- Use the highest rated Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) filter that can be accommodated by the system.
- Regularly inspect filters to make sure they are installed and fit correctly
- Regularly replace filters; consider increasing frequency of filter changes to maintain overall performance
- Check that sufficient airflow can be maintained based on HVAC design criteria
- Check and monitor measures with the goal of optimization (e.g., air exchange rates, outdoor air intake, temperature, humidity)
- Assess exhaust systems
- Keeping systems running longer hours (e.g., two hours prior to occupant entry with consideration to school and childcare start-times and two hours post occupancy with similar considerations)
- Consider placing standalone air cleaner/HEPA filter unit(s) in the room/space (required in spaces as detailed below in ‘Distribution of HEPA Units’ section)
All UGDSB Schools
The school board will continue its work optimizing air quality in classrooms and learning environments through improving ventilation and filtration. Upgrades to ventilation and filtration systems began in the 2020-21 school year and will continue for the 2021-22 school year.
All schools are encouraged to support outdoor education where possible and open windows where this augments ventilation for classrooms and learning environments.
All UGDSB schools have full or partial mechanical ventilation, with the vast majority of schools having full mechanical ventilation. *Full mechanical ventilation means that all areas of the school that students would occupy are fully mechanically ventilated. Partial mechanical ventilation means that some areas of the building have mechanical ventilation (e.g. newer parts in a building) whereas other areas in the school do not have mechanical ventilation (e.g. older parts of a building).
The following schools have partial mechanical ventilation:
- Elementary: Central PS, Eramosa PS, Kenilworth PS, Victory PS
- Secondary: CCVI, GCVI, John F. Ross CVI, Norwell DSS, Orangeville DSS
The following schools have full mechanical ventilation with the exception of the area listed in brackets:
- Elementary: Brant Avenue PS (staffroom), Ross R. MacKay PS (office area)
- Secondary: CDDHS (fitness area), CHSS (greenhouse area)
All other schools in the UGDSB have full mechanical ventilation.
Prior to the start of the school year, the board will assess all school ventilation systems to ensure they are in good working order and will meet the Ministry requirements for full and partial mechanical ventilation. The board will also implement measures over and above Ministry requirements (see below).
Full Mechanical Ventilation
Following the Ministry guidance, for schools with full mechanical ventilation the UGDSB will:
- use the highest-grade filters, including Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13 filters where possible
- undertake frequent filter changes through the school year
- operate ventilation systems for two hours or more before and after school occupancy
- calibrate Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems to maximize air flow, and increase fresh air intake where possible
Partial Mechanical Ventilation
In the learning areas of schools without mechanical ventilation, the UGDSB will place standalone High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration units in all classrooms/learning spaces without mechanical ventilation. These units ensure particle filtration of air. These units are sized for the classroom or learning space that is being used. In larger classrooms and learning space, more than one HEPA unit may be placed.
Standalone HEPA Filtration Units
The Ministry requires that school boards place standalone HEPA units in:
- All occupied learning environments in schools or parts of schools without mechanical ventilation; and
- Kindergarten classrooms in schools with mechanical ventilation.
Distribution of HEPA Units
Partially Ventilated Schools – as required by the Ministry, units will be placed in rooms with no mechanical ventilation as follows:
- 1 HEPA unit per classroom (including portable)
- 1 HEPA unit per specialized classroom (e.g., music rooms, art rooms, labs, etc.)
- 2 HEPA units per kindergarten room
- 2 HEPA units per childcare room
- 4 HEPA units per gym (based on average size of gym – 2 for a small elementary gym)
- 2 HEPA units per library (based on average size of library)
- 4 HEPA units per cafeteria
- 1 HEPA unit per administrative space (e.g., main office area)
As required by the Ministry, in schools with full mechanical ventilation units will be placed as follows:
- 1 HEPA unit per kindergarten room
- 1 HEPA unit per portable with poor mechanical ventilation
Additional UGDSB Measures
The UGDSB has procured more than 1,000 HEPA filtration units to date that will be deployed per Ministry guidelines. In addition to meeting the requirements above, the UGDSB is going beyond current Ministry recommendations by including standalone HEPA filtration units in all Grades 1-8 classrooms, as well as classrooms that run our life skills (Developmentally Delayed) classes (elementary and secondary).
Introduction of Standardized School Ventilation Measures Report
For the 2021-22 school year, the Ministry is launching a standardized ventilation report. School boards will be required to communicate school-level ventilation measures centrally on their school board website. This will enhance transparency for school communities, including students, parents and staff, and provide consistent communication across the province. The information may include whether: ventilation has been inspected, measures in place in each school (such as use of higher grade filters, frequency of filter changes, HVAC systems are running longer, standalone HEPA filter units installed, windows are being opened, etc.).
As an additional measure beyond the provincial requirements for ventilation, the UGDSB will be conducting carbon dioxide (CO2) testing in schools. This process was started in the 2020-21 school year and will be continued in the 2021-22 school year. In order to ensure that the ventilation system is working properly and to find out where we may have to supplement air quality by providing filtration equipment (e.g. HEPA filtration units), the UGDSB is choosing to actively measure the CO2 levels in classrooms while they are occupied.
The CO2 level in a classroom is an indicator for the amount of fresh air being brought into the classroom by the ventilation system or via natural ventilation. The UGDSB process involves board staff going to all school sites and classrooms at regular intervals throughout the school year, and taking a measure of the CO2 levels when students and staff are present. While staff are present on site, they will also inspect classroom windows and screens to ensure they can be used as natural ventilation. Staff will also check that ventilation grills are not obstructed and can therefore work effectively.
Where issues are identified, the board will implement strategies to either address the issue or to implement mitigating measures. In situations where work cannot be completed right away, the board will install standalone filtration units.
Some schools have built-in CO2 monitoring systems, whereas other schools do not. Therefore the UGDSB will actively measure CO2 at all school sites so that all schools are treated equally, regardless of their access to built-in monitoring systems.
Please note that CO2 levels can serve as a proxy measure for overall ventilation but is not a measure of COVID-19 transmission risk.
September Start Up for HVAC Systems
In addition to the UGDSB measures detailed above, and in preparation for the start of classes, the UGDSB will:
- Operate mechanical systems in occupied mode for a period of one week prior to students returning under normal operating hours.
- Assess air intakes and exhaust discharge outlets to prevent/limit re-entry of exhaust air.
- Review and update existing standards for frequency of filter replacement and type of filters to be utilized.
- Trend and monitor carbon dioxide (CO2) on an ongoing basis.
- Review and update, if required, scheduled maintenance protocols.
- Adjust start time of HVAC systems to two hours prior to occupant and two hours post occupancy with similar considerations.
- Review air distribution conditions of existing spaces.
Federal and Provincial Funding – School Based Projects
In the 2020-21 school year, school boards received funding to support COVID-related upgrades, including ventilation projects, scheduled to be completed by December 2021 or later.
The UGDSB received funding for 44 projects related to ventilation in this program.
20 school projects involve work including rooftop HVAC unit upgrades, ventilation upgrades and BAS system upgrades (schools are listed below). These projects are designed, tendered and under construction. Board staff anticipates completion of all 20 projects by December 31, 2021.
Rooftop Ventilation Unit Upgrades:
- Gateway Drive PS
- June Avenue PS
- Maryborough PS
- Salem PS
- Westwood PS
- Priory Park PS
- Alma PS
- Centre Peel PS
- Willow Road PS
- Parkinson Centennial PS
- Princess Elizabeth PS
- Victoria Cross PS
Control System Upgrades:
- John McCrae PS
- Ken Danby PS
- Sir Isaac Brock PS
- Victory PS
- Central PS
- Ross R. MacKay PS
- Norwell DSS
- College Heights SS
24 projects were submitted for duct sealing and upgrades to portable ventilation units. 19 of these projects are portable upgrades, which are proceeding and are anticipated to be completed by school start-up. Five of these projects were submitted for duct and ventilation inspections and are expected to be completed by December 2021.
Portable HVAC Upgrades:
These projects are underway at 19 sites across the board, and are listed below. All are scheduled to be inspected and minor repairs completed by August 30, with any remaining repairs being completed in September.
The scope of the work included:
- Disconnecting blowers, as well as cleaning and reinstalling
- Cleaning grilles if required
- Removing washable filter, installing a new filter frame and upgrading filters as soon as possible
- Setting up fresh air minimum intake to 20% fresh air and ensuring proper damper operation
- Ensuring proper operations and measuring the airflow from system
Number of Portables
Centre Dufferin DHS
College Heights SS
Credit Meadows ES
Erin DHS (Multi-Use Facility)
Island Lake PS
Jean Little PS
John McCrae PS
Ken Danby PS
Mitchell Woods PS
Montgomery Village PS
Sir Isaac Brock PS
Waverley Drive PS
Wellington Heights SS
Duct and Ventilation Inspections:
This work will take place at five secondary sites: College Heights SS, Centennial CVI, John F. Ross CVI, Norwell DSS and Orangeville DSS.
The scope of the work includes:
- Verifying and measuring flows of supply return and exhaust in specific zones of the school
- Locating any potential flow issues and diagnose potential causes including leaks and blockages
- Repairing issues and documenting repairs
- Documenting any other issues and priorities the concern for future repair, including a detailed list of issues and deficiencies
Other Ventilation Funding Allocations
- In August 2020, the provincial government announced $50 million in funding for ventilation in Ontario schools. The UGDSB was allocated $845,000 of that funding. The board used this funding primarily for the purchase of standalone HEPA filtration units, which were deployed to schools.
- The Ministry of Education will be providing a Dashboard design that school boards will be using to report on the ventilation work completed by each school board. Additional funding information will be provided upon release and completion of the Dashboard.