The reopening of schools amid COVID-19 has raised concerns on how to keep the students and the staff safe in Toronto. Many school boards are planning to minimize the class size to ensure safety. Nonetheless, experts have said that infrastructure problem has been overlooked yet it should be a significant concern. A scientific brief released by the World Health Organization indicated that short-range aerosol transmission, particularly in specific indoor locations, such as crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces over a prolonged time with infected persons couldn’t be ruled out. The brief further stated that the droplets produced when an infected person speaks or coughs were the primary way that the virus spreads.
According to Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist, there is no magic number for how big class sizes should be because it depends on the density and airspace within individual classrooms. Furness said he was worried that all of the discussion and focus on class size left them, ignoring something more critical for safety, and that’s air quality. He said he had not heard enough about classroom-by-classroom inspections to see if the air quality and ventilation was adequate.
Besides, he said even if the size of the class was reduced and still the rooms were not well ventilated, then the kids would be in danger.
Based on the WHO scientific details about COVID-19, Furness said ventilation and airflow within an indoor space were crucial to look at. He said to be on the safe side, school boards should think about implementing short-term ventilation solutions if they have inadequate ventilation. Besides, Furness said schools require portable air scrubbers in classrooms right away. He argued that having one air scrubber in every class might have a much more significant impact than taking three or four kids out.
Similarly, Dr Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease specialist, said ventilation should be a matter of concern. He said most of the old buildings had inadequate facilities for allowing proper physical distancing, and also insufficient facilities for appropriate ventilation. Additionally, he said there were many school buildings where you couldn’t even open windows, which was a pretty simple way to improve the ventilation.
Regarding the issue of old buildings, Mohamed Ouf, a professor in Concordia University’s Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, said that buildings built in the 1980s or even the early 1990s could still not meet the ventilation requirements of today, even without taking COVID-19 into account. In Quebec alone, more than half of the schools were officially classed as being in “poor condition” when it comes to infrastructure, according to the most recent 10-year government report.