Parent's bid to fundraise for HEPA filters in New Westminster schools stalls
A bid by a New Westminster father to fundraise for portable high efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) units in local classrooms as a COVID-19 safety measure has stalled after facing pushback from the school district.
The district said it never endorsed the idea, and the units are not needed. The situation has led to calls for more transparency about the efforts keeping kids safe.
In Ontario, thousands of portable HEPA filter units are being deployed in classrooms this year in response to the pandemic, in schools or areas without mechanical ventilation, and in full-day kindergarten classrooms. The Toronto District School Board has said it is installing more than 14,000 units in local schools, regardless of the ventilation systems in use.
New Westminster parent Gabriel Bauman got an idea to get some of the air-clearing units into local schools.
“We’ve got this highly vulnerable population of children who are unvaccinated,” he said. “We need to have multiple layers of defence when you’re dealing with an airborne virus.”
He contacted the school district, and raised the idea of a donation.
“In the end, we got to a state where it was clear that I could deal with my school principal and deal with the classroom teacher,” he said. “And if they were both amenable, and the facilities people approved it, that we could get these filters into classrooms...naturally, I thought well, you know, one filter in one classroom isn’t going to do it.”
Bauman then reached out to principals around the city to gauge interest, and started an online fundraiser.
“Why not put it out there, raise some money, and see how many filters we can put in the classrooms,” he said. “I just wanted to get a sense of how many teachers might be willing to have these units.”
Bauman said the principals did not respond, but he did hear back from the school superintendent.
“Basically saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, this was just sort of for you,” Bauman said. “This isn’t for fundraising. We don’t support your fundraising.”
CTV News Vancouver requested to speak with the district, and members of the school board, but was told they were not available.
In an emailed statement, the district said that after further review, “we will not be implementing these units in our classrooms," and referred to the fundraising campaign as “unendorsed."
“Our decision is based on these considerations: these portable air filtration units are not required, the questionable benefit as we consider the complexities of ventilation and air flow across multiple spaces and schools, and our continued confidence as we are meeting or exceeding recommended standards on ventilation wherever possible,” the district said. “We have thanked Mr. Bauman for the opportunity to discuss, review and consider his request.”
The BC Centre for Disease Control’s public health guidance document for schools recommends making sure all ventilation and HVAC systems are maintained and working properly, and makes the suggestion to “open windows when the weather permits, if it doesn’t impact the functioning of ventilation systems." It also addresses the positioning of air conditioners and fans, but does not mention HEPA units.
The province’s communicable disease guidelines for school settings states “at this time, there is no evidence that a building’s ventilation system, in good operating condition, would contribute to the spread of the virus." It also recommends upgrading filters in schools with recycled or recirculated air systems.
Bauman says he’d like to see engineering reports showing how well school ventilation systems are working.
“If parents are willing to donate a device that cleans the air, I don’t see how that makes classrooms less safe,” he said. “I prefer facts to platitudes, quite frankly.”
BC Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring said she is not surprised parents are concerned about ventilation in schools.
“Families should be able to go to their school principal or go to the website and read about the ventilation systems and what their status is,” she said, and added last year some families and teachers did purchase HEPA filter units themselves, something she said shouldn’t have to happen.
“We’ve been told that providing information about school safety just creates anxiety amongst families and teachers. And I would say the lack of information, the lack of transparency in B.C. right now, is causing a lot of anxiety.”
Last month, the province said $87.5 million has gone towards improving ventilation in B.C. schools, and the funding supported a variety of projects including portable HEPA filtration units in classrooms.
On Thursday, Mooring called for more publicly available details on ventilation improvements and ongoing work.
“This is something that we’ve been pushing government on getting data around for a very long time,” she said. “Here we are, week two, we still don’t have that information.”
Meanwhile, Bauman is encouraging other parents to ask about ventilation at their own children’s schools.
“It fills rooms like smoke. You can’t see it,” he said, referring to the aerosolization of the virus. “It moves around like smoke and builds up in rooms. So you’re exhausting it or filtering it. Just makes sense to me. We don’t want these kids getting sick.”
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Pfizer has asked Health Canada to approve the first COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years old.
More COVID-19 booster shots may be on the way -- but when it's your turn, you'll get an extra dose of the original vaccine, not one updated to better match the extra-contagious delta variant. And that has some experts wondering if the booster campaign is a bit of a missed opportunity to target delta and its likely descendants.
Tk'emlúps te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that his visit to the First Nation community Monday is 'bittersweet' following his notable absence from their ceremony to recognize the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
An Access to Information request by CTV News shows that when Canada learned that Canadian women and children were being held in a Kurdish-run detention camp in Syria, the response was hesitant and minimal—and it appears little has changed, writes London Bureau Chief Paul Workman in an exclusive piece for CTVNews.ca.
Alberta's two major cities were voting for new mayors during municipal elections Monday after being led by Naheed Nenshi in Calgary and Don Iveson in Edmonton for multiple terms.
As polls in the Alberta municipal elections are set to close, voters in the province have also been given the chance to voice their opinions on federal equalization payments.
Colin Powell's death from COVID-19 complications despite vaccination reminder immunocompromised at higher risk
The recent death of Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, due to COVID-19 complications is a small warning, experts say, reinforcing that those of advanced age or with health complications are still at a greater risk than other vaccinated populations.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday sought to block the release of documents related to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection to a House committee investigating the attack, challenging President Joe Biden's initial decision to waive executive privilege.
The regulatory body for Ontario's medical profession has barred two outspoken doctors from issuing any medical exemptions related to COVID-19 vaccinations.
There are currently 4,917 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., including 521 active cases in the Island Health region, according to the B.C. ministry of health.
Early reports indicate that everyone has been accounted for after a floatplane capsized in Tofino, B.C. on Monday afternoon.
A legal battle is brewing between two of Canada's largest defence contractors over upgrades to a pair of New Zealand navy warships in British Columbia.
Jyoti Gondek has been declared as Calgary's next mayor.
Monday is more than a mayoral race. There are also 14 council seats up for grabs, including nine that will see new council members elected, (plus a new mayor). Here's a rundown on the results as they roll in:
George Chahal addressed the controversy surrounding an episode on federal election night, calling his decision to remove a piece of campaign literature promoting his opponent "a dumb mistake."
Amarjeet Sohi won a sizable victory in Edmonton's mayoral race, while incumbent city councillors had a mixed night.
Anirniq remained too close to call Monday night with two candidates in a tight battle to become councillor.
Even with 17 out of 20 polls reporting, Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi remained too close to call.
The Toronto rapper who was wanted for murder before he was arrested earlier this month in Los Angeles is a member of a criminal gang who organized a botched hit trying to target his brother's killer, according to documents unsealed in an American extradition hearing.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is being asked to apologize for 'divisive' comments made on Monday about immigrants coming to Ontario 'to collect the dole.'
Some 215,000 Ontarians successfully downloaded their COVID-19 vaccine certificate QR code Monday morning and they should consider themselves lucky.
Montreal police are looking for multiple suspects after a teenager was fatally stabbed near his school in Cote-des-Neiges Monday afternoon, staggering inside to seek help.
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and the Montreal Fire Department paid tribute to Pierre Lacroix on Monday after his body was retrieved from the St. Lawrence River, where he died performing a water rescue.
Quebec has released a new type of digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination, this one meant to be used for travel out of province in a 'pan-Canadian standard.' However, the federal government is working on something similar.
The pastor of a church near Steinbach has been arrested after attending and organizing public protests, the church said.
Manitoba's health minister has apologized after appearing in a photo breaking the indoor mask mandate at an event over the weekend.
The province is reminding people to keep their proof of COVID-19 vaccination cards handy, as vaccine mandates will be sticking around in Manitoba until next year.
A Saskatchewan First Nation is pushing back against baseless claims involving the community.
Pfizer has asked Health Canada to approve the first COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years old.
Details about how the actions of a Kindersley woman led to her child's death emerged at a sentencing in Saskatoon on Monday.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe will address the province’s ICU capacity Monday morning following a record-breaking weekend for COVID-19 patients in the ICU.
A Regina man is facing charges after allegedly threatening the lives of an elected official and an official with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health.
The Regina Police Service has started an investigation after a man was found dead in the North Central neighbourhood Monday afternoon.
A seven-year-old child has died while out on a walk with his mother on a logging road in Nova Scotia's Cumberland County.
Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting one COVID-19 related death, along with 53 new and 138 recoveries on Monday, as the total number of active cases in the province drops to 849.
Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 72 new cases of COVID-19 and 63 recoveries since Friday, as the number of active cases rises to 208.
The Mayor of London says he will be filing a complaint with the integrity commissioner against a fellow member of city council.
The jury at the second-degree murder trial of Karl Hallman, 30, heard how a night of socializing in January of 2019 turned violent.
OPP in Norfolk County are warning residents of scams after two people in separate incidents were defrauded out of nearly $80,000 combined.
Greater Sudbury Police have charged a 32-year-old man with attempted murder following a series of violent events early Saturday morning.
The troupe behind Sudbury Burlesque say they're eager to hit the stage as they return this month for nine performances at the Coulson Nightclub. They're promising something for everyone but in a small, swankier atmosphere.
Noront Resources Ltd. announced Monday it has agreed to terms with Australia's Wyloo Metals to acquire up to 100 per cent Noront shares for C$0.70 in cash.
Health officials in Waterloo Region reported 41 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend.
Police are continuing to search for a missing 11-year-old girl last seen in Perth County this weekend.
Waterloo regional police are investigating two reports of bomb threats emailed to businesses over the weekend.