Deployment of air quality monitors in schools will be delayed until October

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The rollout of carbon dioxide monitors to all schools is expected to be delayed until next month after flaws were identified in 10,000 devices.

Teacher unions have responded to the delay with “extreme disappointment” given the need to ensure adequate ventilation due to the threat posed by the more transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19.

Full delivery of approximately 35,000 carbon dioxide monitors to all elementary and secondary schools across the state was due to be completed early next week.

However, The Irish Times reported on Wednesday that Lennox Laboratories – which handles the logistics for supplying monitors to schools – has alerted the Education Department of a failure with a final batch of 10,000 devices.

Faulty LCD screens in the units were identified during their post-assembly check at a production plant in the UK, according to Lennox.

The faulty monitors have not been distributed to schools and there is no similar problem with any of the 25,000 devices that have already been distributed to schools, he said.

Given the global demand for the devices, the company expects the rollout of the remaining devices to be delayed until October.

The Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) said the delay was extremely disappointing at a time when all school communities were doing so much to address the challenges of Covid-19.

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“TUI first requested the supply of these monitors last November, and if the procurement and distribution process had started then, the schools would already have the full quantity,” said the general secretary of the union, Michael Gillespie.

“We made a strong statement to the Department of Education today that the exceptional allocation of these monitors must be delivered to schools as soon as possible.”

‘Discouraging’

The Secondary Teachers Association of Ireland (ASTI) also expressed “dismay” at the news.

“These monitors are an important additional tool in the fight to ensure that the transmission of Covid-19 is minimized in schools,” said ASTI President Eamon Dennehy. “School communities have worked so hard to ensure infection prevention and control measures are effective throughout this pandemic.

“It is extremely disheartening that the deployment of these monitors to schools has been delayed. It is now the responsibility of the Ministry of Education to do everything possible to ensure that the problem is dealt with urgently.

Education Minister Norma Foley pledged that all classrooms will be equipped with carbon dioxide monitors by mid-September.

A spokesperson said the Education Ministry was “disappointed” to hear that there would be a delay in delivery.

In the meantime, he said schools can choose to purchase their own monitors to make up for the shortfall and the costs incurred can be recouped.

Carbon dioxide monitors measure the air quality in a room and allow staff to quickly identify areas where ventilation needs to be improved.

Letting fresh air into indoor spaces can help remove air that contains viral particles and is important in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

The latest figures indicate that around 25,000 carbon dioxide monitors will be in schools by the end of this week.

About 96 percent of elementary schools will have received their full instructor allocation, while high schools will have received a partial delivery, according to Lennox.

The company said it was set to deliver the full cohort of 35,000 monitors to schools by early next week, before issues with the last batch were identified.

Elementary schools should receive between one and 20 devices each, depending on their size, and secondary schools should receive up to 35 monitors each.


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