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'I'm very upset': Waterloo parent takes issue with handling of air filter units in school


Rolled out across Ontario during the pandemic as a means to reduce airborne viral spread, a Waterloo parent is taking issue with how the public school board is using its HEPA filter units in classrooms and has kept her child at home for the entirety of the calendar year thus far because of what she sees as a failure to address air quality in class.

Late last year, the concerned parent — whom CTV News has agreed to identify only as Amanda due to fears of harassment in bringing up these concerns — rushed her then four-year-old child to hospital as he struggled to breathe. Amanda says the ordeal turned into a two-week hospital stay and a diagnosis of bacterial pneumonia.

“They had to put him on [intravenous therapy], antibiotics, and we went through over a dozen X-rays and blood draws, and it was just an awful experience for him and myself as a parent,” she said in an interview.

Amanda says her doctor advised a six-week stay at home to recuperate following his release from hospital on January 2.

According to Ontario Health, pneumococcal disease is blamed for the death of nearly 500,000 children under five years old every year around the world.

To help ensure a safe return to class, Amanda requested the classroom keep windows open, ensure the HEPA filter unit was operational and its placement was unobstructed. She says her request was denied, and as such, has kept her son home — missing more than 46 days of in-person learning.

“I’m very upset,” she said. “I’m quite frustrated to be completely honest. I feel like a lot more should be done to keep a five-year-old in school, especially with what has happened in the last few years.”

Amanda adds an assessment of air quality in the classroom was done, with its results shared with her indicating air quality was “adequate,” but a Freedom of Information Request would be required in order to see the report for herself.

“We should be doing a lot more to make it as safe as possible for our very youngest and our most vulnerable,” she said.


In an email to CTV News, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) indicates inspections are carried out monthly in its efforts to prioritize health and safety.

“Each school has a dedicated ‘workplace inspection team’ that conducts monthly inspections of the physical condition of the school,” reads part of the statement from WRDSB.

“The WRDSB has assessed and fine-tuned all Mechanical Ventilation systems board-wide to maximize fresh air in all HVAC systems,” continues the statement.

In its most recent ventilation report, released in August 2022, the WRDSB indicates there are 3,504 HEPA filter units deployed across its schools, and 86 ventilation projects have been completed.

A further $12.2 million is budgeted for 26 projects that are either planned or in progress.

The WRDSB did not accommodate a request for an on-camera interview, and its statement did not respond to our questions about Amanda’s specific concerns.

CTV News also requested a copy of the air quality assessment report completed at Amanda’s school, but that was not addressed.


The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) prioritizes workplace inspections to ensure compliance with legislative requirements outlined in the Occupational Health & Safety Act. Each school has a dedicated “workplace inspection team” that conducts monthly inspections of the physical condition of the school. WRDSB is committed to ensuring that schools are safe for students and staff.

With a combination of provincial, federal and Board of Trustees approved funding, the WRDSB has made significant improvements to ventilation in schools. The WRDSB has assessed and fine-tuned all Mechanical Ventilation systems board-wide to maximize fresh air in all HVAC systems. Classrooms with inadequate mechanical ventilation have received improvements such as HEPA filtration units, HVAC system filter upgrades, windows that open, and other measures to support sufficient air circulation.

More than 3,504 HEPA units have been deployed throughout the system based on the ventilation needs of classrooms, building on the existing HEPA filter units and ventilation devices already in schools.

We continue to work closely with the local public health unit and follow the Ministry of Education’s ventilation guidelines, to create safe and healthy schools. Top Stories

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