Poor ventilation at ten P.E.I. schools should be government priority, Liberal MLA says

·2 min read

A Liberal MLA says the P.E.I. government isn't putting enough priority on its 10 schools with outdated ventilation systems.

"As it stands, these 10 schools are forced to open their windows for a portion of the day – even during cold winter months – just to get fresh air," Gordon McNeilly said during question period in the P.E.I. legislature on Tuesday.

P.E.I.'s public schools branch facilitates 56 schools, all of which have ventilation systems that meet the necessary standards, the Public Schools Branch's acting director Norbert Carpenter told The Guardian last August.

Part of McNeilly's concern is the possible risk that poor ventilation could pose in the spread of COVID-19. He also wanted to know whether a timeline was in place for these schools to receive upgrades.

When McNeilly questioned Education Minister Natalie Jameson on the topic, she responded that the school's ventilation systems shouldn't be a concern, according to the federal Public Health Agency of Canada.

"There is no known risk associated with the virus spreading through the ventilation systems," she said. "With regards to these 10 schools, the health and safety of our students continues to remain the top priority."

The 10 schools in question are not currently on the province's priority list to receive any upgrades, McNeilly said.

"I don't think this is being prioritized efficiently enough considering the potential risk and the fact that students are exposed to the outside weather conditions in an effort to obtain clean air."

Jameson noted she will discuss the topic further with her department. McNeilly referenced a CBC P.E.I. report outlining a Nova Scotia occupational hygienists appeal for P.E.I. to modernize school ventilation systems and to set deadlines for the 10 in question.

"Or will this be subjected to another winter of opening windows?" McNeilly said. "You would think government has prioritized this issue."

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Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian