In the end, the experts appointed by the government to prepare the document had to surrender to the evidence and placed first among the indications to avoid the spread of Covid-19, namely to introduce air exchange systems “natural”. Opening for installation of mechanical systems only as an auxiliary initiative. This is what is illustrated by Skuola.net, which has analyzed the recommendations given by the experts on one of the hottest topics related to back to school.
Open windows work better than a mechanical unit
What the address is can be seen from the premises of the provision: “It is possible, for example, – reads at the beginning of the text – that the simple ventilation of classrooms through window openings can significantly improve air quality, favoring both the dilution and reduction of both chemical agents released inside (e.g. from materials, fixtures and finishes, teaching equipment, cleaning products, etc.), both of viruses and bacteria released by the residents”.
For this reason, the decree containing the guidelines continues “It is recommended that the use of additional sanitation, purification and ventilation devices be considered only when the measures indicated above in an exemplary manner have been identified and implemented and, nevertheless, it has been demonstrated that the air quality is not is appropriate.”. Emphasizes how “The use of the aforementioned devices is only beneficial if it involves an improvement of the indoor air”. And going to highlight “Possible contraindications of the equipment, such as emissions, noise, safety risks, purchase and operating costs, possible emissions and energy consumption”.
Yes to ventilation, but without forgetting the other safety measures
In a nutshell, the use of disinfecting, disinfecting and air cleaning devices equipped with particle filtration systems and the destruction of microorganisms present in the air and on the surfaces of the rooms “Must be aimed at integrating, and not replacing, the main anti-infection measures and cannot ignore the assessment of microclimatic conditions and indoor and outdoor air quality, materials, products and construction technologies, knowledge and behavioral models of the residents that take into account the applicable preventive measures”. Such as wearing a mask in class or maintaining interpersonal distance. Aspects, the latter, about which there has not yet been official communication.
This is because the provision emphasizes, “Neither natural nor mechanical ventilation alone can prevent infection and should be used in conjunction with other protective measures as part of a risk reduction strategy”. Hence the conclusion that “The simple presence of a mechanical ventilation system, even if equipped with a filtration system, does not completely guarantee the risk of virus transmission, but if anything reduces the likelihood.”.
The basic rule for securing our institutions therefore remains the general and most obvious: “Ensure good air quality in school environments, pay attention to the sources of chemical pollutants and pathogens, both internal and external, to the management of activities, to the number of occupants, to the nature and configuration of rooms, to the preventive measures in place, etc.”.
Ventilation systems at school: only 5% of students saw them
As mentioned, however, the content of these guidelines sounds more than a convinced compliance with the first hour prevention measures as a recognition of what the school has managed – or better said, failed to do – in this matter. According to a survey also carried out by Skuola.net at the end of the last school year, for example, only 5% of students said that they had an automatic system in their class, capable of constantly changing the air or, in any case, treating it in a way that prevents the virus from being transmitted through the air. All the others had already organized themselves to anticipate what was being formalized today, keeping the windows open all day or changing the air between one lesson and another. It is unlikely that the picture has been turned upside down in a few months.
Resources are scarce
The reason for this inaction? It has its roots primarily in the lack of resources to continue with a general renewal of our institutes. In fact, the first Sostegni decree, which was approved by the government at the beginning of 2021, allocated just over 150 million euros to schools to deal with the health crisis. A pity that, according to an estimate made by the National Presidi Association (ANP), it would take about 60 thousand euros to equip a medium-sized structure with an efficient ventilation system. Considering that there are about 40,000 “active” school buildings (offices, branches, etc.) and used to host students, it is clear that funding is largely inadequate. Therefore, it is better to make what had already become a consolidated practice the norm.