Windsor

Local schools preparing for in-person learning with new masks, HEPA filters, rapid test kits

In a statement, GECDSB said it has already received and sent out a new shipment of N95 masks to all local public schools

Public school board says 44 HEPA filters are are on the way

A staff member is seen filling up a GECDSB truck with boxes of new N95 masks on Thursday. (Aastha Shetty/CBC News)

The public school board in Windsor-Essex says it's ready to resume in-person learning on Monday, with local schools equipped with thousands of new N95 masks for staff.

The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) is also waiting to receive a shipment of thousands of new three-ply cloth masks for students, thousands of new rapid test kits and 44 additional HEPA filters.

So far, 484 HEPA filters have already been installed in public schools across Windsor-Essex.

According to a statement from GECDSB, HEPA filters are only used in school buildings that do not have a mechanical ventilation system.

"It is a misnomer that people think every classroom will be getting a HEPA unit. That is incorrect," explained Tim Lauzon, the public school board's health and safety officer.

"Classrooms and offices and buildings and rooms that...have mechanical ventilation systems.. .also have MERV-13 filtration and thus they do not require the HEPA alone units."

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MERVs, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values, are filter ratings, and a higher MERV means the filter can capture smaller particles in the air.

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) has also received a shipment of N95 masks for staff use. They are still waiting to receive a shipment of three-ply masks for students, which are scheduled to arrive in time for Monday's in-person learning classes.

In a statement, WECDSB said it will be sending additional information to parents on Thursday.

The provincial government imposed a two-week delay to the resumption of in-person learning following the holiday break due to surging Omicon variant.

While two students who spoke with CBC News are looking forward to getting back to the classroom, they also have  concerns.

"We kind of feel like we've been left out from everything the government has been saying," said Jada Malott, a Grade 12 student at St Joseph's Catholic High School in Windsor.

"I have 30 students in my English classroom back to back, we don't have a medical grade air filter and a window that barely opens. So I do have questions — how come I'm in an English classroom with so many students? Where's our medical grade air filter? Where's our HVAC system? It's just not enough."

Cameron Stahlbrand is a student at Belle River District High School. Stahlbrand said he was hoping for more detail from the education minister on what's coming to make classrooms safe.

"Students, for the most part, have felt safe because of the precautions that our school board had taken with distancing, sanitization, things like that," he said. "But ultimately, the direction comes from the province...it's only a matter of time before we see what happens and whether or not these precautions and then the government is talking about putting in are working and if there are meaningful."

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