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Pupils evacuated as school installs air quality alarms to stop spread of Covid

Ashley Junior School pupil Samuel and the CO2 monitor
Ashley Junior School pupil Samuel and the CO2 monitor

PUPILS have twice been evacuated from classrooms at a New Forest school after air monitors indicated the potential for a build-up of coronavirus.

Instruments have been installed at Ashley Junior School in all teaching spaces to measure the density of carbon dioxide being breathed out in a room by pupils and staff.

Once it hits a certain scale, a warning alerts teachers that fresh air is required as the atmosphere has become too stale and may contain unsafe amounts of coronavirus from potentially infected people.

Head teacher Ian Rix said: “Now we know when the levels aren’t safe, twice we have evacuated children from the classrooms when it has increased to the red level and they haven’t been allowed to return until we have reached the green level.

“This makes the staff and children feel reassured that their learning space is being properly ventilated. I feel happier knowing people are working in a safer environment.”

The CO2 monitors were supplied by the Long Covid Kids (LCK) campaign group, which is pushing for schools to have better ventilation to avoid youngsters contracting the virus and suffering Long Covid whose ongoing symptoms can last for months and include severe fatigue.

One pupil, Samuel Awesome (6), and his family have been struggling with Long Covid for over a year, said LCK.

The youngster said: “I feel so much happier now that I know my classroom is being properly ventilated. I don’t want any other kids to suffer like I have and I wish I didn’t have Long Covid.

“It’s horrible and has been going on for so long, I just want to be well again.”

Government guidance to schools does not require CO2 monitors. But for all settings it demands measures including staff ensuring hands are washed thoroughly, surfaces kept clean with enhanced measures, and to “keep occupied spaces well ventilated”.

Face coverings are only required in classrooms for secondary age pupils and staff.

Fran Simpson, co-founder of Long Covid Kids, said: “Schools are of great importance in terms of the education and mental health of our children. However, it is irresponsible and dangerous when we neglect to make them safe for the children within.

“With our knowledge of the aerosol transmission of the virus and the greater transmissibility of new variants, we are aware that there is a need for increased mitigation measures including mandatory mask-wearing, ventilation and reduced class sizes.

“With the potential health consequences of Covid in children – such as PIMS-TS and Long Covid – we must endeavour to protect our children at any cost.”

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