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Statement on ventilation in schools

28 January 2022

Statement on ventilation in schools

The safety of children and our staff is our priority.

We have closely examined the available options to ensure education facilities are as well ventilated and safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both national and international research indicates that maximising natural ventilation through opening windows and doors and/or using mechanical ventilation systems, is the main and most effective contributor to improving air quality to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection.

In response we been working closely with preschools and schools to identify where natural ventilation can be improved, such as fixing windows that should open but don’t, and undertaking those works. We have also been assessing existing air-conditioning systems and we are making adjustments to maximise the flow of fresh air.

The department looked closely at the use of air purifiers in education settings, conducting an independent investigation into their use.

Because the evidence supports ventilation as among the most effective ways to reduce risk, we have taken the decision not to deploy air purifiers to every classroom, staff room and learning space across the state.

However, as with other jurisdictions, the department has purchased air purifiers for circumstances where natural ventilation or air quality is impacted by outside environmental conditions, such as in the instance of a bushfire. We have 4,000 units, some of which we’ve already sent to schools, preschools and children’s centres in Port Pirie.

We will continue working with our education sites across the state to safely maximise the natural air ventilation in classrooms, which is the recommendation of SA Health, and will ensure we have adequate supply of air purifiers to quickly deploy where they are needed.

The advice is clear that ventilation is only one of a number of risk mitigation measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. It works best with other controls including good hygiene practices, cleaning, vaccination and the use of outdoor learning environments where appropriate.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic the department will continue to follow the expert health advice.

(Updated 28 January)