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Air quality in schools | 3.5% of classes exceed the threshold limit

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Approximately 3.5% of public school classes in Quebec have CO2 above the threshold limit of 1500 ppm determined by the Ministry of Education.

For the first time since installing CO readers2the Quebec Ministry of Education unveiled Wednesday morning the state of air quality in the classrooms of public schools in Quebec.

Last week, 96.5% of classes had a weekly average CO2 below the threshold limit of 1500 ppm determined by the Quebec government. On the other hand, 3.5% of the classes had an average weekly rate of CO2 greater than 1,500 ppm: 3.1% of classes had a rate deemed to be between 1,500 and 2,000 ppm, and 0.4% of classes had a rate greater than 2,000 ppm, a threshold not to be exceeded according to the Ministry of Education . The situation was similar for the previous three weeks.


CO level2 measures the air quality in a classroom. In times of COVID-19, this measure is particularly important. The higher the CO2 is low (e.g. less than 1000 ppm), the better the classroom is ventilated, and the less chance there is of the virus airborne infecting other students in the classroom if a student has COVID-19.

When the average CO2 is at a limit between 1500 and 2000 ppm, the Ministry of Education recommends that schools take corrective measures, in particular to open windows and doors more. Above 2,000 ppm, Quebec asks schools to report it to school service centres, which can then request an air exchanger. By the end of January, Quebec had installed about 500 air exchangers in schools.

The Ministry of Education will now regularly publish data on the rate of CO2 in schools (as with student absenteeism). CO levels2 represent the average of the rates during the school day between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday (including when there are no students in the class, as well as pedagogical or storm days).

518 million

The Government of Quebec also indicated Wednesday morning that it had spent 293 million on work to improve air quality in schools since the start of the pandemic (to be more precise, this is work carried out since July 2020). Quebec also says it plans other work of 225 million over the next year to improve air quality – which will bring the total sum to 518 million since July 2020.

The Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, estimates that these 518 million will be enough to improve air quality in schools. “At the end of the operation we are talking about, [une opération de] almost half a billion, I think the work will be done. There will always be corrections to be made, we are improving our network continuously, but the work will be done,” said Minister Roberge at a press briefing on Tuesday.

With spending of $293 million since the summer of 2020, Quebec is the province that has spent the most (in proportion to its population) for air quality improvement work among the four provinces surveyed by The Press.


However, Quebec is lagging behind other provinces such as British Columbia and New Brunswick: 54% of its public schools do not have a mechanical ventilation system, a much higher ratio.

In general, a mechanical ventilation system is the best solution in terms of air quality in schools – which in particular makes it possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19 there. You can also install an air exchanger, open windows and doors or install an air purifier to improve the air quality in a classroom.

Too late, say opposition parties

Opposition parties in the National Assembly believe that these expenses to improve air quality in schools come too late during the pandemic.

“It’s really very late. More than later. I mean, the reality is why didn’t these investments take place well in advance of all this? asked Dominique Anglade, Leader of the Official Opposition and of the Quebec Liberal Party.

“The problem is not the amount, it’s the speed of execution,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, parliamentary leader of Québec solidaire. In the fall of 2020, Québec solidaire requested the installation of CO detectors2 and air purifiers in Quebec classrooms. Jean-Francois Roberge has [alors] ridiculed our proposal, literally, said that we thought we were other people. […] My problem with this file is not the amount, it is the inadmissible slowness of Jean-François Roberge who dragged his feet. »

” [Le ministre Roberge] is surely late, says Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, leader of the Parti Québécois. […] When the government keeps telling us that no one would have done better, go and see the breakdown in the rest of Canada, the actions that have been taken, the progress made precisely to provide safe environments in the classrooms. Look at what the English-speaking community in Montreal has decided to do by funding air purifiers on its own, the government has slept on it so much. Please stop telling me that no one would have done better. »

The opposition parties have also denounced the transparency of the Legault government in this file. Other Canadian provinces such as British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick have costed their air quality expenditures for some time. The Press also reported on the expenditures of these provinces in an article published Wednesday morning (Quebec did not wish to give its figures at the time). “I am surprised, first and foremost, to see how much, compared to other places like British Columbia and Ontario, that these figures are available. But we don’t have these figures in Quebec,” said Dominique Anglade.

The Ministry of Education of Quebec published its figures Wednesday morning by press release. Among the 293 million spent by Quebec to improve air quality, Quebec would have spent 188 million for the maintenance of mechanical ventilation systems, 78 million to replace or add opening windows, 13 million to repair ventilation systems, and 14 million for other measures (eg replacement of ventilation system filters, air exchangers), according to an article published Wednesday in The Journal of Quebec.

With Hugo Pilon-Larose and Charles Lecavalier

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