HEPA filter move too little too late

13 December 2021

Principals need more support from public health

Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin described the funding of HEPA filters for schools in January as too little too late. Welcoming the belated attention ventilation in classrooms is receiving by the Department, Deputy Ó Ríordáin said teachers throughout the country are fed up of the late-moves in combating covid in the classroom.

Deputy Ó Ríoráin said:

“It was a cynical move by government to asks schools to pay for HEPA filters as part of the minor works grant so it is welcome that funding for this will be increased. Asking schools to choose between fixing holes in the roof or HEPA filters was always unfair and goes to the heart of the lack of understanding the Minister has of what’s happening in schools in Ireland.

“However, schools have been calling for better ventilation since March 2020, so it is extremely disappointing that this funding will not be made available until January 2022. We know that in an effort to better ventilate classrooms, children and their teachers are freezing with windows open. The Minister should have been more proactive about this issue and not force this situation on school communities.

“Like so many of the announcements from this Department throughout the pandemic, it is entirely divorced from the reality of what actually happens in schools. I am calling on government to provide this funding to schools without delay and ensure that areas most impacted by covid outbreaks have access to HEPA filters before schools return from the Christmas break in January.

“The Department is constantly on the backfoot with Covid. I am still receiving calls from frustrated principals about the lack of response from public health teams. They feel abandoned by the Department despite their best efforts to keep the doors open.

“Experts have proposed HEPA filters as one method of protecting schools so it is hugely disappointing that it has taken almost two years for funding for this to be made available. What’s needed from this government is a long term strategy to address the pandemic and its impact on schools. The virus is not going away, so school communities need as much protection as possible.”

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