EIPS is committed to ensuring proper ventilation and airflow in its schools as one of the key health measures in place to maintain a safe learning and working environment for students and staff.
Ventilation Measures in Place at EIPS Schools
As part of its commitment to proper ventilation and airflow, EIPS undertakes:
- regular preventative maintenance on all heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment to enhance building filtration;
- quarterly filter inspections and replacements;
- bi-annual boiler inspections;
- annual inspections—furnace, exhaust-fan, air-handling, air-conditioning, startup, shutdown;
- upgrades as required to the HVAC equipment to meet or exceed the recommended American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards for respiratory illnesses; and
- running ventilation systems for extra hours during the day.
As well, EIPS exchanges the air in its buildings three times an hour and encourages schools to open windows and doors to assist with airflow and fresh-air circulation, when possible.
A common question asked by families is if EIPS plans to upgrade building filter systems or install portable HEPA filters in classrooms as an added precaution. It’s a question the Division has explored extensively with the help of area experts and Facilities Services team.
What has been determined is installing different building filters or adding portable HEPA filters in Division classrooms may not be of benefit. Retrofitting older building ventilation systems with higher efficiency filters can impact building air pressure and fresh air supply. As well, portable HEPA filters are intended for use in areas where no mechanical ventilation exists and there is little data available to support their effectiveness.
Health Canada advises portable HEPA air filters should not be used as a replacement for proper indoor ventilation; rather, they should only be used during periods of inadequate ventilation measures. All EIPS buildings are mechanically ventilated, and also make use of natural air flow through windows when weather conditions allow.
To date, the Government of Alberta has not issued guidance to school authorities regarding the upgrading of building filter systems or the placement of portable HEPA filtration units within classrooms. If the Division decides to alter its position on installing HEPA filters, it would follow a systemwide approach using provincial standards and guidance that ensure the equipment would have a proven benefit for those who learn and work in its buildings.
Alberta Labour/Occupational Health & Safety and Alberta Health Services have inspected EIPS schools for two consecutive years. This increases our confidence that the pandemic-related measures in place within EIPS schools are compliant. As we've done throughout the pandemic, EIPS continues to monitor the evolving situation in consultation with Alberta Education and Alberta Health to ensure the safety of students and staff.