Around a third of Estonia's schools do not meet the required levels of ventilation, ahead of the new school year and any potential further coronavirus waves, education minister Liina Kersna (Reform) says. Only around half the local authorities in Estonia have made use of around thirty million euros earmarked for this purpose so far.
Around 250 of Estonia's over-800 schools and other educational establishments fail to meet the requirements, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Monday evening.
The issue is to be addressed via further funding, Kersna told AK.
Poor ventilation is one factor reported in the potential spread of COVID-19.
She said: "In conjunction with the Ministry of Finance, we decided that we should also create a state fund from which local governments can apply for support, in order to improve the ventilation of their educational institutions."
"I hope that we can roll this out in the autumn," the minister added.
This would be on top of €30 million in additional budget handed to local government for investment support, with a recommendation that this be used for bolstering ventilation systems in schools.
"Based on today's feedback, it could be said that 53 percent of local governments actually used it to improve the ventilation of educational institutions," Kersna added.
One such local government leader, Vladimir Arhipov, mayor of Maardu, just east of Tallinn, said the picture there is good, given there are only two individuals from the schools system currently infected with the virus.
However, updating ventilation systems, which date back in many cases to the Soviet era, is still needed and still costs money, Arhipov told AK.
He said: "We applied for subsidies from the state support program's CO2 [emissions] component, which could be used to improve the façade and roof as well as ventilation, water and sewerage systems, etc."
"However, if we do not receive these funds in July it must be made clear that the city will shoulder the burden and carry out its own ventilation procurement," he went on.
Maardu has three schools plus an art school, with the planned work to start with the town's state high school (Gümnaasium), Arhipov said.
The total sum needed comes to around a million euros, he said.
"There is another option that if we do not get this state support via the CO2 program, we will go with our own resources and install it on the roof," Arhipov went on, noting that the this work would effectively be an upgrade of existing systems rather than installing completely new ones, and would include more efficient fan units placed on school roofs, which would circulate fresh air into the buildings.
The price tag for this work would be €200,000-€300,000, he said.
Education minister Liina Kersna told AK that keeping schools open was key, with vaccinations to be offered via a program starting from mid-August.
The academic year starts on September 1.
For much of the 2020-2021 academic year, and the latter half of the preceding academic year once the pandemic arrived, schools were on remote learning.
Editor: Andrew Whyte