The Québec government and educational institutions are continuing to closely monitor the air quality in classrooms and ensure that appropriate mitigation measures are applied when problematic situations occur.
The Ministère de l’Éducation has implemented a governance structure and is working closely with an independent expert in indoor air quality and industrial ventilation from the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST). This expert is assisting the Ministère in the development of a strategy regarding air quality in schools in order to ensure that the best possible learning and working environment is provided at all times for students and school staff.
- Some of the measures put into place are as follows:
- development of a new protocol for ongoing digital monitoring of air quality in classrooms and identification of the required technological solution
- acquisition of carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors and other indicators to ensure optimal air quality in all classrooms in Québec
- installation of these sensors by December 2021 in all schools. It is, however, the responsibility of educational institutions to install them as quickly as possible, based on their plan and the dates on which the sensors are received.
- implementation of a program for maintenance of ventilation equipment and windows in summer 2021
- distribution and installation of several hundred air exchange systems within the school network
- continuation of the program of required corrective measures to address problematic situations and adjustments to mechanical ventilation systems (that is, air evacuation systems and/or forced fresh air systems), such as:
- optimization of fresh air intake
- removal of energy-saving measures
- continuous operation of ventilation devices
- replacement of air filters, use of more effective air filters if possible (MERV 13 or higher) and maintenance of ventilation systems, when required
The Ministère and the school network have been working together for several years and sharing their expertise to maintain good air quality in schools, especially by producing guides to best practices:
- The Guide de prévention et d’intervention sur la qualité de l’air en milieu scolaire , published in 1996 (available in French only)
- The Guide d’entretien de systèmes de ventilation en milieu scolaire: responsabilités et bonnes pratiques , which includes guidance for schools without mechanical ventilation, published in 2006 (available in French only)
- The Guide de gestion de la prolifération des moisissures en milieu scolaire , published in 2014 (available in French only)
- The creation in 2020-2021 of a systematic testing program for the following three air quality indicators in school buildings: CO2 levels, relative humidity and temperature
The COVID 19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of continuously monitoring indoor air quality, especially in schools, and continuing to maintain safe environments for all occupants.
Call for tenders
On July 16, 2021, a call for tenders was launched with the goal of providing all classrooms with CO2 sensors. This operation, which will ramp up in the fall once the sensors have been received, is intended to allow for close monitoring of air quality in all elementary and secondary schools as well as in vocational training and adult education centres. Québec is the first government in Canada to implement a program of this type.
Indoor air quality and the comfort of students are influenced by multiple factors, such as CO2 concentration, temperature and the level of relative humidity. Scientific studies show that an elevated level of CO2 in indoor air may cause students to be uncomfortable and affect their concentration and results, much like when the ambient air temperature is too high, for example.
Real-time readings allow teachers and material resources staff to make changes quickly and directly in the affected rooms by, for example, adjusting the inflow of outdoor air or completely air out a classroom during a break.
Educational institutions can use the average data to take timely action when the set targets are not reached.
School service centres and school boards can use the average data to identify trends and target buildings that require broader intervention plans and/or larger scale corrective work.
This ensures that students and school staff are provided with best possible learning and working conditions in class.
The priority will be to install the sensors in classrooms with natural ventilation, meaning those that are not equipped with mechanical ventilation systems and where the windows and doors must be opened to ensure air exchange.
The goal is to have all the sensors installed by the end of December 2021. However, it is the responsibility of educational institutions to install them as quickly as possible, based on their plan and the dates on which the sensors are received.
To learn more about CO2, see the Carbon dioxide (CO2) page.
A three-party committee (MEQ, CNESST-IRSST, MSSS-INSPQ) was created with the mandate of overseeing and authorizing requests from the school network in this regard and ensuring more coordinated action on the part of the Ministère regarding indoor air quality.
Ministère de l’Éducation
- M. Jean-Philippe Rancourt, Director, Direction de l’expertise et du développement des infrastructures scolaires
- M. Martin Bérubé, Project engineer, Direction de l’expertise et du développement des infrastructures scolaires
- M. Darius Tsé, Project engineer, Direction de l’expertise et du développement des infrastructures scolaires
Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail
- Mme Caroline Monette, Engineer, Direction de la prévention-inspection - Rive-Nord
Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail
- M. Ali Bahloul, Researcher, Prevention of chemical, biological, mechanical and physical risks
Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux
- M. Christian Roy, Direction de la santé environnementale
Institut national de santé publique du Québec
- Dr Stéphane Perron, Physician specializing in public health and preventive medicine
- Dre Caroline Huot, Physician specializing in public health and preventive medicine
Press release (available in French only)
Document de référence sur la qualité de l’air dans les établissements scolaires (available in French only)
Last update: August 11, 2021