Carbon dioxide levels in Luckey and Pemberville schools in the Eastwood district are well below the threshold that would pose a safety concern for students, according to the administration, which has retained consultants to plan a long-term solution to the problem.
“We have established baseline numbers in both buildings and know that without students, those buildings are fine,” superintendent Brent Welker, said in a newsletter to residents.
Thomas Lingenfelder, principal of Webster Elementary School, asked for assistance in evaluating the air quality at the school last month after some students passed out during a music program.
An investigation by the Wood County Health Department determined there were elevated levels of carbon dioxide in several of the classrooms. The health department later determined the source was the students and teachers in each classroom and that simply venting the rooms with fresh air from the windows lowered the carbon dioxide to levels considered acceptable.
According to Welker, one long-term solution might be to renovate old ventilation systems in the buildings that may have been de-activated in the 1970’s during an energy crisis.
“I think all of the elementary buildings are basically in the same boat,” he said last week. “When you don’t introduce fresh air into the classrooms you’re going to have built up levels of CO2. The levels we’re finding have been dramatically lowered because teachers have been venting classrooms multiple times during the day. The problem is the old ventilation systems were turned off because it was very expensive to treat that air in the wintertime and keep it warm when it came into the classroom. Our challenge now is to try to figure out how to get fresh air into those rooms. Right now we’re doing it by opening doors and having our univent systems running to the extent they can. We’re examining long-term solutions.”
He said those systems, however, are not a reliable, efficient way to introduce fresh air into the classrooms.
According to the School Environmental Health and Safety Inspection Manual of the Ohio Department of Health, carbon dioxide by itself isn’t considered a health issue by regulatory agencies until levels reach 5,000 parts per million. The ODH recommends indoor levels not exceed outdoor levels by more than 700 ppm.
“The good news is that the levels we’re finding in our rooms are not dangerous levels,” Welker said.
The recommendations for carbon dioxide levels in Ohio classrooms come from Jarod’s Law, which was drafted by the ODH, said Brad Espen, director of environmental health at the Wood County Health Department.
The law was rescinded in October but still serves as a guide for local health departments, he said.