Students with indoor-air-related symptoms can be increasingly helped

A separate school building for students with the most severe indoor-air-related symptoms
A separate school building for students with the most severe indoor-air-related symptoms. Photo: Arya Wicaksono

Vantaa has improved the support given to students suffering from schools’ indoor air. Cooperation between families, schools and health care has made it possible to better monitor the situation of students with symptoms. Vantaa has also built a separate school building for students with the most severe indoor-air-related symptoms.

If a student or their guardian suspect that the student's symptoms could be related to the school’s indoor air, the matter should be discussed with both the principal and school nurse. Cooperation between home, school and health care aims to find suitable means to facilitate the student’s situation.

- “We can do a lot in our schools,” says Ilkka Kalo, director of basic education.

Vantaa's fairly new practice—according to which the services of a school nurse given responsibility for indoor-air issues are directly available for students and families—has been found to be functional. The principal is responsible for the school's operations, while the nurse is focused on supporting the students’ wellbeing. Help has been found for even challenging situations.

Schools have many different practical arrangements that ease the school day of students with symptoms.

- Thanks to measures taken by individual schools and health care, Vantaa has been able to help almost all the students with symptoms. Less than 10 students have had to change schools because of internal-air-related symptoms on an annual basis.

Vantaa has more than 24,000 basic education students in 45 Finnish- and Swedish-language schools.

Vantaa's strategic objective is to improve indoor-air quality on the city-owned premises. Nevertheless, analyzing and improving schools’ indoor-air situation is time-consuming, while the situation of students with symptoms must be immediately addressed.

- The city's goal is that all the schools be clean and healthy. “At the moment, we, unfortunately, have several premises to be repaired, and students with symptoms cannot wait,” Ilkka Kalo admits.

- “It is a win-win situation for both the family and the school, if a child can continue studying at their own school, as part of their own school community.”

Indoor-environment pavilion for those with the most severe symptoms

A separate school building for students whose symptoms have continued despite measures taken by their schools was completed in February. If no other measures help, students will be admitted on the premises where clean air is strictly monitored.

First, however, the situation in one’s own school must be improved. Failing this, some other of Vantaa’s 45 ordinary schools will be tried.

“Some people may wonder why students with symptoms are not directly transferred to the indoor-environment pavilion. One of the reasons is that a student’s life consists of so much more than their symptoms; the student should not be separated from their normal school community and friends,” Kalo explains.

Studying at the pavilion is highly different from studying at an ordinary school: the school may not necessarily have many same-age schoolmates and junior high school's subject classes are not available. Students and their families must restrict their lives also otherwise: for example, they must give up their pets, because of the risk of causing other students problems arising from allergens entering the school with a student who has a pet at home.

- “All in all, the indoor-environment pavilion is the last choice, after verifying that other means have not helped. The pavilion ensures that the City of Vantaa can offer suitable premises for all students suffering from indoor-air-related symptoms,” Ilkka Kalo summarizes.

The best knowledge of building and materials was accounted for when building the pavilion to ensure high-quality indoor air. The press release on building the pavilion was published on Nov. 11, 2019.

Published: 26.2.2020 
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