Back to school: still no plan. Without interventions on ventilation, you go back to class with masks. Alarm from the GIMBE Foundation and ANP

We are now at the end of July 2022 and there is still no news about the return to school next September. Last year, the first days of August were released, giving schools barely a month to adjust. This year, the big news is represented by guidelines for ventilation, which in classrooms must help limit the spread of Covid 19. In recent days, Tuttoscuola announced a document preempting the official guidelines for the purchase of sanitary, sanitary and air purification equipment in schools, which, however, had been criticized by many for lacking practical indications for managers. Meanwhile, days go by and only 5% of students say they have adequate ventilation systems in the classroom. And in a few weeks from the beginning of school, it is difficult for the situation to change, especially if we think that it would take millions of euros to install air purifiers in all Italian classrooms. Meanwhile, GIMBE and ANP wave launch a survey among Italian school principals in order to be able to formulate concrete and realistic proposals for the start of the next school year.

Back to school: unknown masks in the classroom

But let’s go in order. Let’s start with the conundrum par excellence, the one that, in these and the next few weeks, will in all probability be destined to be the catchphrase of the moment: in school, does the obligation to wear the mask also remain for the next school year? It is still difficult to say, since, as has been the case since 2020, to establish it, it will be necessary to follow the trend of infections. What is certain is that if it is decided to maintain this commitment, schools must be equipped with masks for students and school staff. Will it be done on time?

Back to school: waiting for guidelines on air sanitation and sanitation systems

So let’s talk about what should be one of the novelties that will characterize the next school year: disinfecting, disinfecting and air purifying devices in schools. In recent days, as mentioned in the last lines, the technical guidelines launched by a team consisting of the National Center for Chemical Substances and Consumer Protection and the Higher Institute of Health have been disseminated. The technicians gave instructions to the schools regarding disinfection, disinfection and air purification devices, but not the operational indications for school leaders in light of the reopening of the school year, which should arrive in the next few days. Meanwhile, considering that almost 369 thousand classes were formed in the 2021/22 school year, it is not difficult to calculate that 360 million euros will be spent to equip the same classes with a ventilation system that costs on average approx. to one thousand euros.

Of course, already last school year 150 thousand euros were invested in this regard thanks to the Sotegni decree. However, as reported by a study by Skuola.net, only 5% of students currently have an automatic system in their classroom that can constantly change the air or in any case to treat it in such a way as to prevent the virus from being transmitted through the air. It is difficult to imagine that for the resumption of lessons the picture will change much.

Back to school, ANP: “We need clear indications”

It is certain that clear indications are needed. Asking them is first and foremost the school leaders. Cristina Costarellipresident of ANP Lazio and head teacher of the “Newton” high school in Rome, declares: “Absolutely nothing has been done about this issue in the schools. Guidelines are expected from February, but there is still deafening silence. So far, there are only recommendations that give vague indications“. And he adds: “we start again in September with classrooms reaching more than 30 students, in rooms that cannot accommodate them, with a completely inadequate ventilation speech and recommendation to open the windows, which to date is the only measure indicated for recirculation of air“.

Back to school: the GIMBE Foundation and ANP survey

“The results of the investigation – confirm Dario Cartabellotta and Antonello Giannelli regarding the survey carried out by the GIMBE Foundation and ANP, where they asked for proposals for the start of the school year directly from school leaders – give an objective picture of measures implemented to increase COVID-19 safety in schools, leaving various points of criticism to emerge which should hopefully be resolved before the start of the 2022-2023 school year. In addition, one unlike last school year, some preventive efforts are “blunt”. Primarily, the effectiveness of the vaccine against infection was found to be lower in the age group 5-11 years compared to older age groups and current coverage (with two doses) has stopped at around 35% with relevant regional differences, while the third dose has not yet been approved by the EMA; second, with a a variant as infectious as Omicron 5, the tracking activities are of limited use; finally less 1% of infections are due to contact with infected surfaces. Therefore to limit the circulation viral in schools, improving air quality is a priority to avoid relying on again just coupled “open windows” protocol and FFP2 masks. An aspect confirmed by WHO Europe that recently defined the 5 “stabilizers of the pandemic” for the next autumn-winter season, by one of them is precisely “ventilation of public and crowded spaces (such as schools, offices and public transport)”.

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