Higher than normal levels of CO2 detected in classrooms, Wake County parents want answers

Diane Wilson Image
Friday, November 11, 2022
Higher than normal levels of CO2 detected in WCPSS classrooms
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Is the indoor air quality at your child's school safe?

Is the indoor air quality at your child's school safe? That's what a group of Wake county parents want to know after they say they didn't get answers from the district so they're taking matters into their own hands.

Jamie Erickson says, "These kids need good indoor air quality. They all deserve indoor air quality." However, the levels of carbon dioxide inside Erickson and Kim Lambert's kids' classroom at Scott's Ridge Elementary School is a concern after the school tested the indoor air quality after a parent raised concerns about a mildew smell. "There was a report done at that time that showed kind of higher-than-normal CO2 levels, higher than recommended CO2 levels," Erickson added.

That testing was done in August, and the principal of Scott's Ridge Elementary did share the test results which show in the room tested, the CO2 level was 2195 parts per million. The CDC says a target benchmark for good ventilation is CO2 readings below 800 ppm. Kim Lambert says, "I mean high CO2 levels that really affects your concentration, and with children that have already been affected by the whole COVID scare, been out of school when homeschooled, they're already behind.

We don't want this also affecting them, pushing them even more behind" Both parents wanted more answers about the guidelines and policies in place when it comes to indoor air quality from school administrations and when they didn't get them, took matters into their own hands and sent in a portable carbon dioxide detector into their child's classroom.

Erickson says, "I sent it in with my son and put it in the mesh side pocket of his backpack. In the backpack, what remained in the room the whole day. Those numbers confirmed what the professional report done by the district said about CO2 levels."

By this chart, you can see how the carbon dioxide levels go up and down throughout the day. At 9:00 am the reading shows the CO2 levels around 800ppm but then climbs throughout the day, reaching the highest level of CO2 around 2:00 pm at 3200ppm. "We know that indoor air quality matters to our kids, not just for COVID but for their learning and well-being broadly. So we hope we get some answers, and we hope we learn more about what's happening and what they're doing because we're not getting information about that right now," Erickson tells ABC11.

These parents at Scott's Ridge Elementary are not alone. The NC Alliance for School Equity and Safety Group also sent and continued to send portable carbon dioxide monitor's into different classrooms throughout Wake County. Kira Kroboth says, "Some of the readings that I've seen I would be appalled if that was my child's classroom." Kroboth shares the CO2 readings of each school on the group's website and acknowledges their testing methods are not scientific.

"All I want is for the district to conduct their own audit, get their own data and release it to the parents along with the plan of where they're going to address any issues," Kroboth said.

As for Wake County Schools, a representative said, "We are committed to quickly responding to all IAQ concerns and issues. A healthy environment for our students and staff is a key part of our operational mission. The CDC's potential target benchmarks cited are not standalone recommendations. Instead, they are included in a layered approach to reducing COVID-19 transmission along with other suggestions. In addition, a variety of organizations and government bodies have issued various guidance on the topic related to COVID and air quality. You can read a summary of how CO2 relates to Infection Risk Transmission and Indoor Air Quality here.

When it comes to the concerns at Scott's Ridge Elementary, the district said, "We will contract with an independent, third-party firm to assess the indoor air quality in the mobile units at Scotts Ridge Elementary." When I asked why that hasn't been done yet, since the last test was done in August, and the parents have raised numerous concerns since then, a representative adds, "Part of the work of the third-party firm is to determine what type of testing needs to be done."

The representative with Wake Schools also said, "We are also currently seeking guidance from DHHS and other health and government organizations to see if changes to our current practices are needed."

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