Carbon dioxide monitors will be installed in some ACT public schools as part of a strategy to improve ventilation before students return to class.
It comes as health experts urge school authorities to create guidelines to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on campuses so students can return to face-to-face learning as soon as possible.
The ACT government has ordered 80 CO2 sensors to be installed in about 30 public schools over coming weeks, which would bring the total number of schools with the devices to 65.
An ACT government spokeswoman said the chief health officer had identified adequate ventilation as one of the key strategies in managing the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools.
"In response to the current COVID-19 outbreak and the planned return to on campus learning, the education directorate is developing an indoor air quality plan to further assess the ventilation status and needs of all public schools, starting with ACT public colleges," the spokeswoman said.
"This plan will identify short and longer-term steps to monitor and manage fresh air coming into buildings and will include consideration of technological solutions to improve air quality."
By measuring the level of CO2 in a space, schools will be able to get a good picture of what the indoor air quality is and how the spaces ventilate.
So far ACT is not following Victoria's strategy of rolling out air purifying devices in schools.
"When connected to HVAC control systems, these CO2 sensors can be programmed to either increase or decrease outdoor air intake," the spokeswoman said.
"This would be helpful for example in excluding bushfire smoke, but will also be helpful to improve the levels of fresh air in classrooms during pandemic conditions."
The ACT Education Directorate started a program to install CO2 sensors in 2018 to manage air quality and energy efficiency in schools.
Thirty-five public schools already have CO2 sensors installed in key buildings including libraries, halls and gyms.
Standalone monitors can be installed in schools that don't have a suitable building management system.
"We know there are also other easy and quick changes we can make to improve ventilation and fresh air intake. These include, among other things, the reopening of windows that had previously been fixed shut," the spokeswoman said.
Australian National University professor of global environmental health Sotiris Vardoulakis said the factors that affected transmission rate indoors were the time spent in the environment, how closely people interacted and the ventilation rate.
"Natural ventilation will help, no doubt, so if we just open the windows and we increase the air exchange rates and we have natural ventilation that will reduce the risk of of transmission," Prof Vardoulakis said.
"There is some evidence from recent studies that portable air cleaners can also help. Of course, the caveat here is that they need to be properly installed, they have to be at the right place, be of the right size and generate enough flow that actually improves ventilation in the indoor environment."
Prof Vardoulakis said good ventilation also improved academic outcomes for students as stuffy classrooms with a build-up of carbon dioxide could cause children to become lethargic.
He said good ventilation was just one way to minimise transmission risk in schools, along with vaccination, wearing masks, good hygiene and physical distancing.
"We cannot eliminate risk completely but of course we want to minimise risk and carry on with our lives and activities. Also there is a risk for kids if they don't attend school. This has also an impact on their development so we need to be proportionate with the kind of precautions we recommend," he said.
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