20 HEPA filters donated unused to Surrey school – North Delta Reporter

The chairman of the Surrey District Parents’ Advisory Council says it is “extremely disheartening” to learn that 20 donated HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) portable filters sit unused and in storage at a Surrey primary school.

But the school district claims that’s because “most spaces” in the district don’t warrant the extra filters.

Rina Diaz, president of the DPAC, said parents are “doing their best,” but after two years of pushing for better ventilation in schools, it’s disheartening.

Diaz said at the Surrey DPAC meeting last month, attendees were told the district would not be using portable filters, even those given to schools.

“One of these PACs managed to do this for his school and they’re sitting somewhere. They are not able to install them,” Diaz said. “It’s so weird because (the district is) sitting on HEPA filters and you’re not doing anything.”

Cloverdale Traditional Elementary School was the winner of an Airpura contest, which saw the school receive the most votes from the community. According to a statement, there were more than 1,725 ​​schools named in Canada and the United States

Airpura’s UV air purifiers range from $900 to $1,150.

There were 10 finalist schools which each received a HEPA air purifier, with George Greenaway Elementary School in Surrey also being selected based on the number of votes. The Surrey School District has confirmed to Now-Leader that all air purifiers have been shipped to Cloverdale Traditional and are in storage there.

The DPAC, Surrey Teachers’ Association and BC Teachers’ Federation have all urged schools and districts to use HEPA filters where ventilation is not up to the highest standards. A Jan. 27 article from the STA says it’s asking school health and safety committee officials to make recommendations to their administration to “purchase portable HEPA filters to bring classrooms up to MERV-equivalent levels.” 13″.

Meanwhile, in August, the BCTF requested funding for ventilation upgrades to meet “minimum standards for MERV-13 filters and HEPA filters in workspaces where MERV-13 filters are not available.” not possible”.

Diaz said it’s disheartening to hear that HEPA filters are just here after all the work parents have done to get them.

“I think as parents we start to reach our limits and most of us feel exhausted at this point.”

School district spokesperson Ritinder Matthew said the district’s health and safety team “evaluated the use of these units at school and determined that they are not indicated for use. on this specific site”.

Matthew added that the district “carefully” reviews all requests for HEPA filters and considers all controls in place in the space, including ventilation, how the space is used and time spent near others. .

“The physical layout of the space is also an important consideration, as these units must be sized, placed correctly, and maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A poorly placed unit can increase the risk of transmission due to the drafts it creates.

The district says that in “most spaces” portable HEPA air filtration is “not indicated because we have layers of controls in place to prevent transmission. These include optimized ventilation, maximizing the use of available space, wearing masks, limiting the mixing of people, and limiting time spent near others.

However, a professor from the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health, says there’s “really no evidence anyway, actually, for COVID if (HEPA filters) go down or increase (transmission)”.

Michael Brauer added that based on physics and what experts know about transmission and how filters work, “it’s very likely that they’re removing some of the COVID from the air.”

“It’s unclear if that’s enough to really make a significant difference, and I would say it’s pretty unlikely – but yes, theoretically possible – that they could increase transmission, but I would say it’s very unlikely. .”

Last fall the Surrey School District released an online ventilation database which lists the ventilation systems used in different areas of each school site.

The district said where equipment can accommodate, it has upgraded HVAC equipment filters to MERV-13. However, in cases where the manufacturer’s specifications do not support MERV-13, the district has installed the next highest filters that can be supported – either MERV-11 or MERV-8.

MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Ratio Values. According to the Government of Canada’s guidelines on indoor ventilation during the pandemic, filters with higher MERV ratings “are more effective at removing particulates.”

When the district released the database, it said it was also changing filters with increased frequency — four times a year — to ensure efficient operation and to date in the 2021-22 school year, $674,000 was invested in HVAC upgrades and $250,000 in MERV rated filter maintenance.

But the majority of spaces listed were below MERV-13, including Surrey’s newest school, Grandview Heights Secondary, which only had MERV-13 in 10 of the 38 spaces listed.

Brauer said MERV-13 is one of the higher quality filters.

“If they don’t have that, then the air going through that ventilation system isn’t filtered very well, so one of those portable HEPA filters would be useful. It would also help even if it had a MERV-13 filter.

Noting the district’s concerns, Brauer said it was “a bit variable from place to place, and of course every building and every school is a little different.”

He added that if there was any concern that HEPA filters would increase transmission or create their own draft, it “would suggest that the basic level of ventilation – if it were to happen – that ventilation in these classrooms n was already not adequate.”

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