Since August 2020, over $665 million in funding has been allocated to improve ventilation and filtration in schools, resulting in improvements to all existing ventilation systems in every school, deployment of approx. 100,000 standalone HEPA filter units, upgrades to school ventilation infrastructure and increased transparency for students, parents and staff.
Current active funding to support indoor air quality approximately includes:
- $29.5 million included in the annual School Operations Allocation to support the increased costs related to optimizing ventilation in schools, which includes installing higher grade filters where possible and increasing fresh air intake.
- $1.4 billion in annual renewal funding provided to school boards, which can be used to support ventilation improvements.
- $450 million allocated to support HVAC and window upgrades under the federal-provincial COVID-19 Resilience stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Stream (ICIP-CVRIS). These projects are largely all online by the end of this calendar year.
- $26.5 million allocated in federal ICIP-Ventilation funding for all school boards.
- At HWDSB, $11.5 million has been allocated for planned ventilation projects in 2023-24. HWDSB previously invested $31.8 million in ventilation upgrades from 2020-21 to 2022-23
Community members can now view school-specific Standardized Ventilation Reports for our HWDSB buildings. This dashboard, which was standardized by the Ministry of Education, displays each school’s ventilation system along with other ventilation and filtration measures. Access the reports through the Excel document linked below.
To find your school, use the dropdown menu next to “School Name” and select your desired school. The content will then change to display the selected school’s information.
To continue creating and supporting a healthy and safe learning environment for students and staff, school boards should continue enhancing air quality in classrooms and learning environments.
The guidance for the 2023-24 school year builds on the best practice/checklist document released by the Ministry of Education in August 2021 (2021: B14 School Ventilation) and, where applicable, has been augmented to reflect the latest information from ASHRAE. School boards should review applicability of this guidance, with qualified persons, in the context of their school facilities and related building systems (including manufacturer recommendations) to ensure improvement measures are aligned with the specifications of existing systems.
School boards are expected to:
- Ensure ventilation systems in all schools are inspected and in good working order for the new school year.
- Continue inspection and maintenance of ventilation systems throughout the year.
- Calibrate HVAC systems for maximum air flow and increased fresh air intake, while recognizing specification and limits of existing systems.
- Use highest rated Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) filter that can be accommodated by the system (MERV-13 if possible) and regularly:
- Inspect filters to make sure they are installed and fit correctly.
- Replace filters and consider increasing frequency of filter changes to maintain overall performance.
- Check that sufficient airflow can be maintained based on HVAC design criteria.
- Keep ventilations systems running when buildings are occupied, including by support staff and vendors.
School boards are recommended to consult ASHRAE guidance in the context of their facilities operating parameters and system specifications, working with qualified persons as required (e.g., building engineers and occupational hygienists).
For buildings/rooms that rely on natural ventilation/no HVAC system:
- Open windows for short times at intermittent intervals, if safe to do so (assess to prevent re-entry of building exhaust). Doing so for a few minutes at a time during the day can still improve air quality, with minimal impact on the indoor temperature.
- Assess exhaust systems (review to ensure exhaust air is not re-entering the building e.g., windows, science labs, washrooms) and ensure restroom exhaust fans are functional and operating at full capacity when the building is occupied.
Ontario’s leading standard of a standalone HEPA unit in every kindergarten class, in all learning spaces in schools without mechanical ventilation and mechanically ventilated spaces that are not supported by MERV-13 filters, continue to be required by the province. As noted in prior memos, portable HEPA units are highly effective at capturing and removing airborne particles and pollutants, and in turn significantly improving indoor air quality. In operating these units, school boards are expected to:
- Size the units appropriately for the classroom or learning environment in which they are used. For instance, in larger classrooms and learning environments, more than one HEPA unit may be required.
- Regularly maintain units per manufacture requirements, visually inspect intake for debris and clean as necessary.
School boards should also ensure that implemented measures do not introduce new health hazards to the setting, for example:
- Do not open windows and doors, if doing so poses safety or health risk to students and staff, e.g., risk of falling, triggering asthma symptoms, exposure to wildfire smoke etc.
- Do not prop open fire doors to increase ventilation and/or reduce exposure to frequently touched door handles.
- Avoid use of technology or devices that may pose safety or health risks, e.g., commercially available ionizing air cleaners and other unproven technologies. The following documents provided by Public Health Ontario are a good resource:
- Use of Portable Air Cleaners and Transmission of COVID-19 (publichealthontario.ca)
- Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (publichealthontario.ca)
- Avoid direct air flow around people’s breathing zones to reduce respiratory droplets being dispersed from person to person. Rather than air flow at head level, options would be to direct the air upwards or to exhaust room air out of an open window while other open windows draw fresh air in.
For previous updates on ventilation, see our archived Ventilation Page.
HWDSB CVRIS-EDU Ventilation Upgrades
HWDSB was successful in securing funding for ventilation upgrades and other pandemic-related projects. Ventilation improvements, such as new roof top units or classroom unit ventilators, are in the ‘Complete’ or ‘Close-out’ phase at 26 locations and in the ‘Construction’ phase at four locations as a result of this CVRIS-EDU funding.
View the list of projects below:
|Ancaster Meadow||New ventilator units and replace RTU||Complete|
|Balaclava||New unit ventilators and replace RTU||Complete|
|Bennetto||New ventilator units and replace RTU||Complete|
|Buchanan Park||New ventilator units and replace RTU||Complete|
|Cecil B. Stirling||RTU replacement||Complete|
|Ecole Elementaire Michaelle Jean||New ventilator units and replace RTU||Complete|
|Flamborough Centre||New ventilator units and replace RTU||Complete|
|Franklin Road||New ventilator units and replace RTU||Complete|
|Gatestone||Replace Childcare RTUs||Complete|
|Gordon Price||Install Childcare RTU||Complete|
|Highview||New ventilator units and replace RTU||Complete|
|Hill Park Learning Centre||Replace RTU||Complete|
|Huntington Park||New ventilator units and replace RTU||Complete|
|James Macdonald||Replace RTU||Complete|
|Lawfield||Replace Childcare RTUs||Complete|
|Memorial||New unit ventilators for childcare||Complete|
|Millgrove||New unit ventilators||Complete|
|Mount Albion||Replace unit ventilator||Complete|
|Norwood Park||Install new RTU||Complete|
|R.A. Riddell||Replace RTU||Complete|
|Ray Lewis||Replace childcare RTU||Complete|
|Richard Beasley||Replace RTU||Complete|
|Sir Wilfrid Laurier||Install childcare RTU||Complete|
|Sir William Osler||Replace childcare RTU||Complete|
|Yorkview||New unit ventilators and replace RTU||Complete|
Note: For the purposes of this summary, the “Complete” phase represents fully functioning ventilation systems. Close-out documentation and deficiencies may be underway at some facilities.
For a full list of CVRIS-EDU projects being completed at HWDSB, including installations of water-filling stations, touchless door operators, and more, visit our blog post.
School HVAC Tiers
- There are three tiers of ventilation as identified by the Ministry of Education. They are Tier 1 (supply, return, exhaust), Tier 2 (supply, exhaust) and Tier 3 (exhaust). Tier 3 schools are typically heated with radiators and have exhaust units for moving air. These schools will be receiving HEPA units.
- The CVRIS projects upgraded full mechanical systems of six schools and move them from Tier 3 to Tier 1.
|Tier 3||Tier 2||Tier 1|
|A. M. Cunningham
Frank Panabaker North
George L. Armstrong
Allan A. Greenleaf
Cecil B. Stirling
Dr. J Edgar Davey
Frank Panabaker South
Hill Park System Alternative Education
Lincoln M. Alexander
Nora Frances Henderson
Prince of Wales
R A Riddell
Rebecca Street Alternative Education
Sir Allan MacNab
Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Sir William Osler
Sir Winston Churchill
W. H. Ballard
Waterdown District High School
Frequently Asked Questions
How will HWDSB use HEPA air purifiers?
HEPA Supply and Distribution
- The Board has 2,462 high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units currently deployed in the system, provided in accordance with Ministry of Education direction. This includes all Kindergarten spaces, schools without mechanical ventilation (Tier 3), and where there are active ventilation projects underway and not yet completed. HWDSB has also included gyms and special education rooms, as well as portables and areas not fed from a MERV13 filtration.
- HEPA units will run while rooms are occupied (all day) and are designed to do so. Capacity depends on fan speed and model ranging from 200-450 CADR.
- The HEPA air purifiers that the Board has are meant to service approximately 1,000 square feet per unit. Classrooms are usually approximately 750 square feet. Therefore, adding additional HEPA air purifiers to a single classroom is not required.
- The filters for the units last approximately 12 months, based on unit filter indicators and run hours. Staff continues to monitor the effectiveness of the filters and change as required.
Can I purchase a HEPA for my child/ren’s class?
The Ministry of Education requires school boards to use the HEPA air purifiers provided by, or purchase HEPA air purifiers through, the provincial procurement guidance of the Ontario Government.
From the perspective of fundraising, we are not permitting school councils or individuals to raise funds for HEPA units. In addition to this inventory being under the controlled guidance of procurement practices as well as the enhanced public health efforts, raising funds for these units can create inequity among some school communities. More affluent school communities may be disproportionately advantaged compared to other school communities impacted by lower socio economic conditions.
Also, once we receive any HEPA units, they require filters and the Board would have to include the annual costs of filters in their operating budget moving forward.
What types of filters is HWDSB using?
- MERV 13 is a rating of filter used in supply and return air systems. Not all systems can accommodate MERV 13, so we have increased the level of MERV where we can.
- Roughly 35% of our schools now operate with MERV 13 filters.
- Roughly 45% of our schools have increased MERV filter values.
- Roughly 20% of our schools (18) are defined as Tier 3 by the Ministry of Education, meaning they have exhaust systems only, which are not mechanically ventilated, and will be equipped with HEPA units.
- More school-specific information regarding filters will be shared in the Standardized Ventilation Reports on September 3.
Is HWDSB monitoring carbon dioxide (CO2) levels?
- Classrooms will not be receiving any additional CO2 monitors if the school’s mechanical systems are not already equipped with them. CO2 monitoring is not required to be installed by Code, but through new construction and renovations, HWDSB follows best practices and installs CO2 monitoring at locations that can benefit from its use.
- CO2 monitors are interlocked with HVAC units, which in turn will increase the amount of ventilation classrooms as CO2 levels increase. Not all HWDSB schools have mechanical ventilation, and therefore would not benefit from CO2 monitoring.
- HWDSB’s CVRIS projects do include the introduction of CO2 monitoring, where applicable. CO2 monitoring is only beneficial in specific mechanical systems, and not all equipment can accommodate them.