Teachers and pupils complain of ‘freezing’ classrooms as Dublin school closes early

A Dublin school said it was forced to close early Friday due to cold temperatures caused by keeping windows open for “mandatory ventilation”.

Separately, teachers at dozens of other schools have complained of “freezing” temperatures as low as 10 degrees as they struggled to meet Covid-19 ventilation standards.

Under health and safety laws, workplaces must have a minimum temperature of 16 degrees.

St Kevin’s College, a boys-only secondary school in Finglas, Dublin 11, informed parents on Friday that the school was closing at 1:05 p.m. – about two hours earlier than expected – due to “low temperatures inside and out. outside the school due to compulsory ventilation. ”.

It is understood that the school was short of 10 teachers due to Covid reasons and did not have a guardian available.

Under public health guidelines, schools are required to determine whether ventilation in classrooms can be improved “without causing discomfort.”

They are also advised to ensure that, whenever possible, doors and windows are open to increase natural ventilation, “weather permitting”.

Social media

Many schools, meanwhile, shared photographs of the temperature readings in their classrooms on social media on Friday.

A teacher said the temperature in his school at the start of the day was 8 degrees and had reached a “mild” 10 degrees by the time the children left at 2:30 pm.

Another teacher, posting a temperature of 11.2 degrees, said staff and students were all wrapped in coats to protect themselves from the cold and wind.

At another school, a teacher showed a reading of 9.9 degrees and added, “This is what we had to work with today. Baltic.”

Another added: “15 degrees at the front of the room, 8 degrees if you’re unlucky enough to sit by a window despite a heater under the window.” I had three science lab thermometers to check.

At one elementary school in Carlow, a teacher posted a reading of 13.4 degrees, and added, “Can we continue like this? Surely we have to start sending the children home? It’s not sure ! “

The Education Ministry said the overall approach for schools should be to have windows open as fully as possible when classrooms are not in use – such as during breaks or lunch hours and also at at the end of each school day – and partially open when classrooms are in use.

“It should be noted that the windows do not need to be opened so wide in windy / colder weather in order to achieve the same level of airflow in the classroom. This will help manage comfort levels in classrooms during periods of colder weather, ”a department spokesperson said.

“In colder weather, any local cooling effect can be compensated by partially opening the windows closest to and above the radiators. “

Last month, the national public health emergency team warned against “overventing” classrooms to stop the spread of Covid-19 by leaving windows “permanently open”.

Carbon dioxide levels

However, many teachers say windows should be kept open to ensure carbon dioxide levels are within recommended limits.

A spokesperson for the department added that a dedicated team had been set up in the department to support schools that may have concerns about ventilation.

Agents are also available to contact schools if necessary, explaining the steps schools should take to deploy good ventilation practices.

Where it is not possible for a school to access the expertise of an engineer or architect, a technical assessment to assist the school may be facilitated through the department.

“Schools that identify inadequate ventilation in a room can use their minor works grant or apply for an emergency grant to permanently improve ventilation. “

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