HONOLULU (KHON2) — Poor ventilation continues to be an issue in Hawaii classrooms as the fall semester gets underway. According to Department of Education data, one in 10 classrooms have high levels of carbon dioxide due to poor ventilation.

Keith Hayashi, the DOE superintendent, said they are “continuing to closely monitor air quality in our classrooms.”

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Data collected by the DOE showed that 10% (1,261) of the 12,000 classrooms in the state have high levels of CO2 due to poor ventilation.

The data below indicates the number of classrooms within each tier. CO2 levels are measured by parts per million (ppm), or 0.0001%.

Tier 1 (<800 ppm) 337 rooms Tier 2 (800–1100 ppm) 525 rooms Tier 3 (1100–1500 ppm) 304 rooms Tier 4 (1500–2000 ppm) 70 rooms Tier 5 (>2000 ppm) 3 rooms

The DOE identified 73 classrooms in seven schools on Oahu, that fell within levels four and five, with very high CO2 levels.

  • Kauluwela Elementary: 24 classrooms
  • Keone‘ula Elementary: 19 classrooms
  • President William McKinley High School: 10 classrooms, 6 rooms
  • Pu‘uhale Elementary: 8 classrooms in library
  • Royal School: 3 classrooms
  • Mililani High School: 1 classroom
  • Mililani Middle School: 2 classrooms

The DOE Deputy Superintendent Randall Tanaka said they are watching those classrooms very closely.

Contractors were hired by the DOE to assess CO2 levels in September 2021.

Elevated levels of CO2 means there is a greater chance someone could breathe in what another person is exhaling, thus spreading the virus more easily.

Hayashi said they are trying to fix the problem.

They’ve already provided 12,000 box fans and 4,000 HEPA air filters to schools.

“Air purifiers, which are made available to schools throughout the pandemic, do not bring CO2 levels down but help to improve — improve air quality indoor air quality, along with the box fans distributed to all schools, which increases ventilation,” Hayashi explained.

Andrea Eshelman, HSTA deputy executive director, said it’s a bigger issue now that most COVID guidelines have been lifted.

“It maybe wasn’t as urgent last school year, because we had mandatory masking, but now that’s optional. So it becomes a bigger concern,” Eshelman said. “That’s really all we’re looking for is to be transparent — let folks know what rooms you’ve identified.”

Hayashi said continuing to wear a mask indoors can provide some additional protection.

“Principals are notified of those classrooms,” Hayashi said. “And we will be getting that information up on our website so parents and teachers will be able to know and identify which classrooms and we’ll continue to work together with them, with the schools.”

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Long term, Tanaka said they are also looking into how to deal with old air conditioning systems designed to manage energy costs that don’t promote air circulation.