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Ventilation in TCDSB Schools

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) is optimizing air quality in schools and learning environments through improving ventilation and/or filtration. This is a key element in the multiple protective strategies to support healthy and safe learning environments for staff and students. 

Ventilation is one strategy to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools by helping to reduce the number of virus particles in the air. The TCDSB has focused on several areas to improve ventilation in schools being:

  • Installing more than 6,800 portable High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) purifiers in TCDSB schools to enhance cleaning of the air.
  • Increasing the frequency of filter changes in existing mechanical systems to four (4) times per year using MERV 13 rated air filters, where possible. 
  • Conducting assessments on all mechanical ventilation to ensure they are fully operational and servicing where necessary and placing the highest priority on ventilation repairs if needed.
  • Setting the systems to run at maximum outside airflow a minimum of two hours before school starts and two hours after it ends to refresh the air before arrival and remove remaining particles at the end of the day.
  • Adjusting the operating schedules for all mechanical systems to maximize air flow, increase fresh air intake and increase the amount of air exchanges per day in the building, maximizing ventilation.
  • Encouraging schools to open windows throughout the day to increase ventilation and bring in natural fresh air, dependent on weather.
  • Promoting and supporting classes, activities, and lunches to be held outside where possible.  

Types of Ventilation Systems in TCDSB Schools 

The TCDSB has a variety of ventilation systems in nearly 203 schools that supply/distribute or remove air from a space by mechanical or natural means, thereby controlling the indoor air quality within the school spaces. The ventilation systems in schools are primarily based on when the school and any subsequent building additions were added. 

The types of ventilation systems commonly in use are: 

Non-Mechanical Ventilation (Natural Ventilation / Exhaust Only) 

Ventilation delivered through spaces primarily by air diffusion through doors, windows, or other intentional openings in buildings. Air diffusion is often augmented by using exhaust fans that assist in drawing fresh air into a building. 

Partial Mechanical Ventilation 

Schools that have had one or more additions built over time may have a combination of mechanical and non-mechanical ventilation systems. Natural Ventilation / Exhaust Only would typically be found in older sections of a school while newer sections would most likely be served by Mechanical Ventilation systems.

Mechanical Ventilation 

Mechanical Ventilation may include supply fans which push outdoor air into a building and exhaust fans which expel air out of a building. These systems may also heat or cool the air through the use of additional equipment, so that air is delivered to the space at comfortable temperatures. 

TCDSB Ministry of Education Ventilation Report 

Download Report (Excel | 0.7MB)

If you have trouble viewing or using the school search function in the spreadsheet, ensure you click the "Enable Editing" button located near the top of screen after opening the document in Excel. 

Don't have Excel? All TCDSB students have free access to Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus. Visit the Digital Store​ for more information. 


Filtration involves the use of different fibrous media designed to remove particles from the airstream. These are installed in Mechanical units that supply fresh air to schools.

To increase removal of airborne particulates, in the 2020-2021 school year TCDSB secured and provided 5,449 portable HEPA air purifier to all schools (non-mechanical, partial mechanical and full mechanical). These were distributed to all classrooms (regular, specialty (music, arts etc. JK and SK) portables excluded, as they have internal mechanical systems with HEPA grade filters, as well as libraries, main office and staffroom.

The Ministry provided funding, Memo B14 “School Ventilation”, for additional HEPA units to enhance boards’ distribution plans for the 2021-22 school year. TCDSB received 1,766 additional units that will be distributed as follows: 

Schools without mechanical or partial mechanical ventilation will receive additional units in the following locations: 

  • 1 additional HEPA unit to JK/SK
  • 2 HEPA units to per Childcare Room
  • 4 HEPA units per Gym
  • 1 additional HEPA unit to Library
  • 4 HEPA units per Lunchroom (Secondary Schools) 

Schools with mechanical ventilation

  • 1 additional HEPA unit to JK/SK 
  • Provision of HEPA units to Childcare Spaces 

If necessary, numbers will be adjusted in non-mechanical ventilation locations such as gyms and libraries to ensure the number of portable HEPA units will reflect the actual need of those spaces as outline in the Ministry Guidelines. 

The use of HEPA filtration units, in combination with improved ventilation strategies and existing health and safety protocols, work together to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and support a safer environment for staff and students. 

The TCDSB is investing more than $3,600,000 million (funded through School Condition/Renewal Improvement grants and the Covid-19 Resilience Infrastructure funding, received at the end of February 2020) for a total of 52 projects, including upgrading air handling equipment, window replacement, Air conditioning improvements. The TCDSB will be investing in additional upgrades in the 2021/22 school year in an estimated amount of $27,000,000.00 for an estimated 106 projects.

Health and Safety Measures 

Health and safety is a priority in our schools and the TCDSB is taking action to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep schools safe for staff and students. See the TCDSB Reopening Action Plan​ for more information.

The Board has also invested more than $3,700,000.00 of funds through COVID Resilience funding to improve schools’ conditions by updating cleaning equipment, handwashing locations, water filling stations, increased safety signage and safety training to enhance safety for students and staff.