Government of New Brunswick

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) is committed to ensuring our school environments are not only healthy and safe, but optimal for learning and working.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the province established a working group on ventilation – with representation from Public Health, WorkSafeNB, EECD and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DTI) – to review the latest scientific findings and recommendations from Health Canada and other expert sources.

The working group has developed a guide document to support school districts in their efforts to promote healthy air circulation in schools. The document is reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

The province has also undertaken a review of all 294 schools to identify which schools do not have integrated mechanical ventilation systems.

There are currently 60 schools which school districts report do not have such systems.

Assessments have been carried out in schools to determine the probable scope and cost of adding ventilation systems to these buildings.

In addition, two consultant firms have been hired to measure carbon dioxide (C02) levels in a sample of rooms at these 60 schools.


Air quality test results

The air quality tests were conducted under the conditions most likely to create a CO2 buildup in schools: during the winter heating season (2020-21) and with classrooms occupied.  

All test results were found to be within the safe range of CO2 levels and did not demonstrate reason for health and safety concerns.

In accordance with WorkSafeNB guidance, it is not until CO2 levels reach 5,000 parts per million (ppm) over an eight-hour period weighted average, or 30,000 ppm over a 15-minute weighted average that there are risks to the occupants’ health and safety. 

Of the 60 schools tested, results for 47 schools indicated that certain rooms, although safe, did have C02 levels peak above 1,500 ppm, which are less than optimal for learning. These results often followed peak periods of stagnation within the classroom during the day.

School districts have received all test results and have taken measures to reduce CO2 levels on a case-by-case basis to best respond to the specific configuration of spaces within the schools.

Often, mitigation is as simple as ensuring there are more opportunities for air exchange. For instance, installing exhaust fans, opening doors and windows, or having the students move more freely through the school throughout the day.


Adding ventilation systems to schools

Government is implementing a multi-year program to install integrated mechanical ventilation systems in schools that do not have them.

Projects and budget requirements are currently being developed by EECD and DTI based on a priority list, and the first ventilation systems are expected to be installed in 2022.

The number of projects implemented each year will be dependent on variety of factors, including the availability of funding.

Government has invested more than $30 million on school ventilation projects since 2015.


Data-driven analysis to evaluate major projects

School districts and EECD work together to ensure that educational facilities provide a safe and supportive learning and work environment. 

To ensure transparency, EECD uses an unbiased, data-driven analysis to evaluate major capital school infrastructure projects that have been requested by the school districts.

The Quadruple Bottom Line Multi-Criteria analysis process is used annually for projects that cost over $1 million, including renovations to existing schools and new construction projects.

School districts are responsible for maintenance and minor repairs in schools. 

When major emergencies occur, such as heating system failure or roof damage due to weather events, EECD and school districts work together to mitigate the problem and minimize impacts on student learning as quickly as possible.