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HEPA Units in TDSB Schools - Questions & Answers

Please see the Questions & Answers below for additional information about HEPA units in TDSB schools.

 

Mechanical Ventilation and HEPA Units

Q: What are HEPA units?

Q: Are HEPA units necessary in schools/classrooms?

Q: What is mechanical ventilation?

Q: Why do rooms with mechanical ventilation not require a HEPA filter?

Q: Why does opening windows help in the ventilation of a room?

 

TDSB HEPA Units
Q: Is the TDSB providing HEPA units for schools/classrooms?
Q: How do I find out if my school is receiving HEPA units from the TDSB?
Q: When will schools receive the HEPA filters?

 

Fundraising

Q: Can Schools and School Councils Fundraise for HEPA units?

Q: Can individual schools accept donations of HEPA units from individual or corporate donors?

Q: What will happen to these HEPA units when they are no longer needed?

Q: What will happen to the 500 air purifiers donated by Danby Appliances?

Q: Can schools and School Councils conduct fundraising for other school needs?

Q: What are the TDSB’s key fundraising and donation priorities for 2020-21?

 

 

Mechanical Ventilation and HEPA Units


Q: What are HEPA units? 

A: HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. A HEPA unit is a type of mechanical air filter that it works by forcing air through a fine mesh that traps harmful particles such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and tobacco smoke.


Q: Are HEPA units necessary in schools/classrooms? 

A: Information on this issue continues to evolve. However, as per the latest update from Toronto Public Health (TPH) on October 14, 2020, “Presently, there is no evidence to show that air purifiers on their own are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 transmission. Portable air cleaners or air purifiers may be useful as a supplement to HVAC ventilation or if there is no outdoor air exchange.” For more information, please see TPH’s COVID-19: Transmission, Aerosols and Ventilation document.


Q: What is mechanical ventilation?
A: A mechanical ventilation system in a building circulates a mixture of fresh air and recirculated air using ducts and air handlers. All TDSB schools and/or additions built after 1980 have mechanical ventilation systems in accordance with the Ontario Building Code. In addition, some older TDSB schools (built before 1980) also have mechanical ventilation systems in place.  


Q: Why do rooms with mechanical ventilation not require a HEPA filter?
A: As per the latest update from Toronto Public Health (TPH) on October 14, 2020, “Presently, there is no evidence to show that air purifiers on their own are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 transmission. Portable air cleaners or air purifiers may be useful as a supplement to HVAC ventilation or if there is no outdoor air exchange.” For more information, please see  TPH’s COVID-19: Transmission, Aerosols and Ventilation  document.

Schools/classrooms with mechanical ventilation receive filtered fresh air throughout the day through the mechanical system, whether there are operable windows in the room or not. Mechanical systems are designed to provide a certain amount of air exchanges over the course of the day. The schedule for mechanical systems in TDSB schools has been adjusted to increase the number of daily air exchanges by starting equipment two hours prior to school opening and running them two hours after the end of the day.  

The air that is delivered into rooms through mechanical ventilation passes through filters within the system. Those filters are rated according to standard classifications set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), based on the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. The MERV rating indicates the size of particles the air filter is designed to capture. The typical filter at the TDSB is rated as MERV10. By comparison, hospitals typically use MERV13 filters in areas of high sensitivity. MERV13 filters are not compatible with our current systems and can lead to operational issues. However, as part of the work to prepare for the reopening of schools, TDSB staff changed all filters in existing mechanical systems and the filters will be changed more frequently during the course of this school year.


Q: Why does opening windows help in the ventilation of a room?
A: As per TPH, one important strategy to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 is to increase ventilation in a space. In schools, this can be done by either natural or mechanical ventilation. Natural ventilation includes air infiltration through open windows. In rooms with operable windows, staff are encouraged to keep windows open to increase ventilation. During colder months, we will adjust the heating systems in schools to keep classrooms comfortable for students and staff while keeping windows open slightly for increased ventilation.


 

 

TDSB HEPA Units


Q: Is the TDSB providing HEPA units for schools/classrooms? 

A: The provincial government has provided $6.9 million in funding to the TDSB to improve air ventilation in our schools. The TDSB is using approximately $6M of this funding to purchase 6,000 HEPA units for classrooms across our entire system without mechanical ventilation or with limited ability to provide fresh air. The remaining $0.9M will be used for costs related to inspection and replacement filters for the existing mechanical systems in schools. We anticipate that all schools without mechanical ventilation/with partial mechanical ventilation or with limited ability to provide fresh air will receive HEPA units for use in occupied classrooms.


Q: How do I find out if my school is receiving HEPA units from the TDSB?

A: Schools listed as having partial or no mechanical ventilation on this list have received or will be receiving HEPA units purchased by the TDSB. Facility Team Leaders have conducted a school-by-school analysis to determine how many units are required at each school. We anticipate that the 6,000 HEPA units purchased with provincial funding will be sufficient to install units in all TDSB classrooms without mechanical ventilation or with limited ability to provide fresh air.


Q: When will schools receive the HEPA filters?

A: The TDSB has started receiving shipments of the HEPA filters from the vendor. However, it will take time for all 6,000 units to be received. As the units are delivered to the TDSB, they will be shipped out to schools. Schools began receiving HEPA units the week of October 19 and the TDSB will continue to distribute them to schools until all units are received from the vendor.


 

 

Fundraising


Q: Can Schools and School Councils Fundraise for HEPA units?

A: Schools and school councils cannot fundraise for HEPA units. As per the Ministry of Education Fundraising Guideline , schools and school councils are not permitted to fundraise for anything that government funding typically covers. Fundraising for HEPA units or other HVAC-related items for a specific school is not permitted because the province specifically provided funding to school boards for this purpose. The TDSB continues to implement a number of strategies to improve ventilation in our schools, including sourcing HEPA units to use in classrooms without mechanical ventilation or with limited ability to provide fresh air. 


Q: Can individual schools accept donations of HEPA units from individual or corporate donors? 

A: With the $6.9M in Ministry funding for 6,000 HEPA units and the 500 additional units received through previous in-kind donations, the TDSB will have sufficient units for classrooms without mechanical ventilation or limited ability to provide fresh air. For this reason, we ask that schools do not accept any additional donations of HEPA units from individual or corporate donors.


Q: What will happen to these HEPA units when they are no longer needed? 

A: All HEPA units will be taken out of schools and stored centrally should they be needed in the future.


Q: What will happen to the 500 air purifiers donated by Danby Appliances?

A: We are grateful to Danby Appliances for donating 500 air purifiers to the TDSB that were distributed to 37 schools without mechanical ventilation and in the highest risk neighbourhoods for COVID-19 transmission, as identified by Toronto Public Health. These units will be replaced by the commercial HEPA units that the TDSB is purchasing, and will be redeployed within the school for use in small offices and rooms.


Q: Can schools and School Councils conduct fundraising for other school needs?

A: Yes. Schools and School Councils can fundraise for school purposes, as long as they do not replace public funding for education, and are not used to support items funded through provincial grants, such as classroom learning materials, textbooks, repairs, or for additions that significantly increase operating costs. Schools can use this online donation link to conduct fundraising and collect donations for their school.


Q: What are the TDSB’s key fundraising and donation priorities for 2020-21? 

A: The TDSB's key fundraising priorities for 2020-21 are:

 

  • Technology: There continues to be a need for technology to ensure that all students are supported. The TDSB has a plan to replace the devices that were borrowed from schools and sent to students to support virtual learning. However, this will take time. The TDSB is planning to spend approximately $15M for new technology and any additional fundraising support would be used to supplement this technology. Should in-kind donations of computers be provided, they will be treated as BYOD (Bring You Own Device) for use in the school and would be given to students without the expectation of being imaged, supported or maintained by the TDSB’s IT department.
     
  • Nutrition Programs: There is an increase in demand for grocery gift cards for virtual school students in underserved communities due to COVID-19. The switch to prepackaged foods has also created an increase in cost pressures to school programs.
     
  • TDSB COVID-19 Central Relief Fund: Funds donated to the TDSB’s COVID-19 response will directly contribute to the delivery of vital services and support for vulnerable communities. Donating to the COVID-19 Central Relief Fund allows the TDSB to direct your donation to the highest priority needs in the system during this evolving situation.

To donate to these and other initiatives, please visit the Donation page.


 

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