Teachers worried about pupils in freezing classrooms

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SCHOOLCHILDREN who are trying to study in freezing temperatures with windows and doors open in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid will continue to suffer until there is a centralised procurement scheme to provide air filters. 

That’s according to Limerick Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) representative Laura Quirke who said that teachers were reporting children wearing layers of clothing and some even resorting to bringing hot water bottles to school.

While health and safety guidelines say that classrooms should be at 16 degrees within an hour of the start of the school day, teachers were taking readings of less than six degrees.

But because of the prohibitive cost and scarcity of high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filters, teachers are worried that children will have to endure freezing classrooms over the coming months.

“As teachers we’re doing what we can and having movement breaks between lessons but there’s no doubt the children are freezing,” Ms Quirke said.

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“The problem is that while the Department has said we can use grant money to get filters, the quotes schools are getting are way more than the money provided in the grant, even if we could get them. To provide air filters in a cost-effective way for all schools needs the matter to be handled centrally instead of leaving individual schools to try to sort it for themselves.”

Ms Quirke said that more modern schools might be able to use filters if they can afford them, but in older school buildings the fitting and function of the filters would require major renovation works.

“The advice from the department is that windows don’t have to be opened as much, but even if they are only opened at breaks, the classrooms are still freezing. It’s one thing for teachers – we can bring layers and move around but children have to sit in their desks for an hour or more. We’re doing what we can because we don’t want to spread this virus but it is very hard for pupils.”