SUMMERSIDE — Parents, staff and students of Parkside Elementary can breathe sighs of relief, as the Western School Board and province are a step closer to fixing air-quality issues at the school.
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Parkside Elementary School
In a letter sent home to parents earlier this month, Dave Gillis, director of corporate services with the board, wrote that six new mechanical air-handling units have been ordered and are expected to arrive on Dec. 10 to be installed at the school.
When students and staff return after Christmas, the installation should be complete.
“We’re very optimistic,” Gillis said Tuesday. “It’s been a long time coming, it seems.”
Earlier this year, air quality tests revealed high levels of carbon dioxide at Parkside, one of the oldest schools in the country. Since, staff has been ‘flushing’ the building several times daily by opening windows and doors to allow fresh air in. Class sizes in areas with no air exchangers have also been reduced.
The smaller air-handling units were a much more cost-efficient solution to the problem compared to the $750,000 cost of a larger air-handling system.
But, the latest solution, depended entirely on the school’s aging electrical system.
The province’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal has evaluated Parkside’s electrical system and determined it can be modified to accommodate the six mechanical air-handling units.
In his letter to parents, Gillis said the units are expected to “dramatically improve the levels of fresh air throughout our facility,” with each unit strategically placed in the school to service two to three classrooms.
“The units are designed to continuously bring fresh air into our classrooms while heating it to temperatures appropriate for learning. Each unit is equipped with carbon dioxide and temperature sensors, which automatically regulate the air to acceptable parameters,” Gillis said. “This solution has been implemented successfully in a large number of school classrooms throughout Ontario and feedback thus far has been very positive.”
The department is now updating the school’s electrical system and installing ductwork so when the units arrive they can be installed immediately. That work is being done on evenings, weekends and times when students are not in class.
Gillis said Tuesday that no instructional time would be lost as a result of the work.
Until all work is complete, staff will continue to manually flush the building daily.
Joan Moore-Dennis, the P.E.I. School Safety consultant, has been testing air quality in at the school regularly.
To date, all test results have fallen “well within acceptable parameters,” said Gillis.
He did note even after the units are installed there would still be areas in the school without air exchangers. Flushing in those areas will be done on an “as needed basis.”
“We’ve got a number of schools across the Island that don’t have mechanical air-handling systems and that’s the norm for all of our schools,” said Gillis. “The only thing about Parkside is that their concentrations were such and the air exchange was such that the regular flushing was getting everything they needed done.”
He couldn’t quote the cost but said it was much less than the $750,000 quoted for the larger mechanical air-handling system.