Meath principal proposes HEPA filters for Irish schools

Lisa Callanan, Principal of Rathbeggan National School in Co Meath, says introducing air filtration to schools earlier would have given staff and pupils a greater degree of protection during the pandemic. She believes the Government should now commit to bringing the machines into every school in the country. Picture: Conor McCabe Photography.

By: Hannah Daygo

Rathbeggan national school’s principal, Lisa Callanan has proposed that HEPA filters be installed in schools to reduce the opening of windows during colder months for ventilation, and to minimise covid outbreaks.
Installing HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorption) filters in Irish schools are likely to be another “preventive measure,” according to Lisa Callanan.
Lisa Callanan said that installing air filters in every classroom in Ireland should be the “State’s New Year’s resolution” to minimise the opening of windows for ventilation and with the 61-year-old school such as Rathbeggan, it is “not ideal for teaching and learning.”
As temperatures dropped in Ireland recently, the weather has been chilly, causing concern for students’ safety and wellbeing. Ms. Callanan’s proposal of installing HEPA filters said that it should be the “natural solution” to minimise the spread of airborne viruses other than Covid.
Funding for ventilation available to help schools and childcare services was addressed by minister of education Norma Foley last December 2021. Funds up to €72 million was announced, but Ms Callanan believes filters suitable for different classroom types should have been provided directly to classrooms.
“Ideally, HEPA 14 filters should arrive in every classroom in the country once assessments are carried out by an engineer or architect; that would make it crystal clear that every school would have that extra layer of protection.”
David Byrne, Managing Director of Mia Air, said they carried out surveys at schools which were delivered to teachers with feedback saying they, “cannot teach effectively in the current environment.”
Ms. Callanan believes that introducing and installing HEPA filters in Irish schools “at an earlier juncture would have been more effective” than almost two years later.
A total of nine air conditioning systems were installed by the Irish company Mia Air in Ms. Callanan’s 173 pupil school,
removing the constant necessity of leaving windows and doors open for ventilation.“While the announcement of additional funding has been welcomed by schools, it is nowhere near enough based on schools’ actual requirements and further consideration needs to be given towards extra support,” Byrne said in a statement.

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