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Schools' ventilation systems not significantly improved over past two years

Testing of a ventilation system.
Testing of a ventilation system. Source: ERR

The improvement of schools' ventilation systems being so time-consuming and costly have forced local governments to buy air purifiers instead. It will be years before schools see updated ventilation systems installed.

Over the past two years, one school and one kindergarten each have had new ventilation systems installed in Tartu.

The Ministry of Education and Research allocated €2.5 million in support for the updating of school ventilation systems, but Tartu Deputy Mayor Priit Humal (Isamaa) told ERR that this isn't enough for Estonia's second-largest city.

"That isn't enough to renovate one kindergarten, let alone the entire school network and kindergarten network," Humal said. "Figuratively speaking, this is a hundred times less money than we'd need."

The City of Tartu plans to install new ventilation systems in old school and kindergarten buildings in the course of the complete overhauls thereof. Increasing construction costs, however, have led to delays in the city's school renovation plans.

Thus awaits Tartu Kivilinna School its turn, said principal Karin Lukk.

"Not before 10 years from now, yes," Lukk said. "It'll be 2030-something; we're currently in line. Things have been postponed due to [the COVID-19 pandemic]."

In all, 36 schools and kindergartens in Tartu are awaiting renovations. To bridge the gap until they are renovated, the City of Tartu bought air purifiers for schools with inadequate ventilation.

Humal explained that as the city is limited on their use of funds, these air purifiers will be installed where they are most critical — in elementary classrooms and in kindergartens.

Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) professor and Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture director Jarek Kurnitski, however, deems air purifiers moreso a temporary solution.

"The installation of classroom-based [ventilation] systems is justified in the case of those school buildings that won't be undergoing complete renovations next year or the year after that and are currently lacking ventilation systems," Kurnitski said.

The Ministry of Education and Research currently lacks an overview of the condition of Estonian schools' ventilation systems. Indrek Riisaar, director of State Assets Management at the ministry, said that investments have always been the responsibility of schools themselves, and that the state can only provide support here.

"We have to discuss this issue with various school managers — i.e. mainly local governments — and reach an agreement," Riisaar added.

The ministry is to receive information regarding schools by fall, at which point the plan moving forward regarding ventilation systems will be figured out as well.

"We'll have to discuss this with [the Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities] during budget negotiations," the ministry official said. "I'd certainly hope that at least the vast majority of [schools] will have ventilation systems within the next five to six years."

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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