€72 million for ventilation to be provided for schools and childcare services

Schools will have flexibility on how they use the funding to improve their premises including the purchase of high-efficiency particulate-absorbing filter (Hepa) machines if they are deemed necessary.
€72 million for ventilation to be provided for schools and childcare services

Digital Desk Staff

The Government is to provide up to €72 million in funding that can be used by schools and childcare services to improve ventilation as part of efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

As The Irish Times reports, Minister for Education Norma Foley announced €62 million in minor works grants as part of additional pandemic-related supports.

Schools will have flexibility on how they use the funding to improve their premises including the purchase of high-efficiency particulate-absorbing filter (Hepa) machines if they are deemed necessary.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman separately announced €10 million in funding to improve ventilation in creches.

The Government has been criticised by the Opposition on the issue of ventilation in schools. Experts have regularly said the matter has been largely overlooked in the State’s pandemic response.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald last week told the Dáil that there are children and staff who have been “freezing in classrooms” where windows are open “in an attempt to keep them safe” from catching Covid-19.

She said the rate of infection among school-aged children had “shot up” and that “it’s been clear for some time that Hepa filters have an important role to play in ensuring schools have clean air”.

Primary schools

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said funding would be made available for schools that want Hepa filters in “given situations”.

Of the funding announced by Ms Foley, some €45 million is for primary schools and special schools, with €17 million for second level.

Schools can use the funds for air-filtration systems but they can also be used for maintenance and small-scale improvements to school buildings and grounds and the purchase of furniture or computers.

“This significant increase in funding for schools will enable them to address both their minor works requirements and also to address small-scale ventilation improvements at school level as a short-term mitigation measure, should they require to do so,” Ms Foley said.

The department issued updated guidance for schools on good ventilation practice in May and it has also offered technical guidance on Hepa filters for schools that believe having them is necessary.

Hepa filters will also be eligible for purchase under the supports announced by Mr O’Gorman.

He said higher education institutions would facilitate the temporary release of students to work in childcare services amid pressures on staffing levels due to Covid-19-related absences. His department has introduced an accelerated process for assessing students’ eligibility to work in the sector.

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