Survey shows about 10% of Hawaii public school classrooms have poor air ventilation

With face masks now optional, officials worry that’s a risky situation.
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 4:42 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 2, 2022 at 8:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kids are back in school, but some are learning in spaces without fresh air.

And with face masks now optional, officials worry that’s a risky situation.

State Department of Education contractors recently found that about 10% of 12,000 Hawaii public school classrooms have limited access to outside air due to central air conditioning.

Of those, 73 rooms had unacceptable levels of carbon dioxide. They were at:

  • Kauluwela Elementary
  • Keone’ula Elementary
  • McKinley High
  • Puuhale Elementary
  • Royal Elementary
  • Mililani High
  • And Mililani Middle.

School officials say they’re working on improving ventilation in those rooms.

“We expect to have those classrooms observed and monitored by the middle of next week, we’ll be in pretty good shape. And all those mitigation steps are already in place,” said Randall Tanaka, DOE assistant superintendent for the Office of Facilities and Operations.

The mitigation efforts include using using box fans, air filters and purifiers, and opening windows and doors.

“Should they not meet the threshold, we will be working with the school principal to identify other strategies that we can use either in that classroom to bring those numbers down,” said DOE Superintendent Keith Hayashi.

“Or we’ll be finding alternative means for those students to be learning in other classrooms that we can.”

Critics feel the DOE is moving too slowly at the expense of safety for children and teachers and want more information so families can plan accordingly.

“They need to publish a list of the affected classrooms, they need to confirm that they have assessed every classroom space,” said Hawaii State Teachers Association Executive Deputy Director Andrea Eshelman.

“We just want them to be transparent, share with family so folks can make decisions and our members can make decisions about whether you should really emphasize masking in their classroom spaces.”

As for long-term solutions. DOE officials say upgrading HVAC systems will take time.

“Some of the design of those systems when it was put into place was to manage energy costs not promote the exchange of the air,” Tanaka said.

“Those systems need to be evaluated and say we need to have elements that in introduce fresh air into the room.”

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