More students are in classrooms throughout B.C. that have improved ventilation systems with funding from the federal government, according to final spending reports from school districts.
During the 2021-22 school year, the Ministry of Education and Child Care provided $11.9 million to school districts throughout B.C. as a part of the Federal Safe Return to Class Fund. The funding was used to improve indoor air quality in schools and to help reduce transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases. Ventilation experts, public-health professionals and health guidelines helped inform how funding was used.
The purchase and installation of standalone high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration systems for the 1,218 classrooms that were being used without access to mechanical ventilation systems was a priority for government. Across 30 school districts, $2.5 million went to purchase 1,914 HEPA units. Some districts chose to purchase additional filters to use in other shared school spaces.
Additional air-quality investments in schools:
- $4.1 million toward improving existing ventilation systems in schools in 29 school districts;
- $2.8 million toward ventilation filter upgrades and replacements including purchasing MERV-13 (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values) filters, which report the effectiveness of filters in more detail than other ratings, in 35 school districts; and
- $1.7 million to 27 school districts to help cover the increased utility costs associated with improved outdoor air circulation in schools.
Use of funding in some school districts:
- The Vancouver School District received $1.1 million and purchased and installed HEPA filters in 11 classrooms without access to mechanical ventilation, improving existing ventilation systems in 33 classrooms. They also purchased MERV-13 filters for all their schools.
- The Surrey School District received $1 million and improved existing ventilation systems and upgraded filters.
- The New Westminster and Burnaby school districts purchased and installed enough HEPA filtration units in all classrooms without existing mechanical ventilation.
Since 2020, the Province and the federal government have invested $219.4 million to assist school districts upgrading ventilation and filtration in thousands of classrooms throughout the province, with $194.4 million from B.C. This has resulted in more than 343 ventilation projects being completed at schools throughout the province.
Budget 2023 includes $669 million in routine capital funding for school maintenance projects over the next three years to continue providing school districts with resources for upgrades, including for ventilation and filtration systems.