Making sure haze won't cloud exam season

An air purifier in a Primary 6 classroom at South View Primary School. Each classroom has two air purifiers. Some 320 pupils at the school will sit the PSLE this year. Principal Madam Sharida said venues chosen for the exams will allow pupils to continue
An air purifier in a Primary 6 classroom at South View Primary School. Each classroom has two air purifiers. Some 320 pupils at the school will sit the PSLE this year. Principal Madam Sharida said venues chosen for the exams will allow pupils to continue with the papers even if the haze level rises suddenly. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Schools holding exams in enclosed spaces with air purifiers ready to be switched on. Lessons on haze conducted to raise awareness among the school community. MOE closely monitoring situation, and schools briefed on measures to take

With thousands of students taking their year-end examinations, including the written papers for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), from this month, schools across Singapore are not taking any chances with air quality.

Schools told The Straits Times they will hold exams in enclosed spaces with air purifiers in any case, to avoid disruptions if there are abrupt changes in air quality.

South View Primary School's principal, Madam Sharida Batcha Sahib, said the exam venues within the school will allow pupils to "continue with the exams even if there is a sudden rise in the haze level".

"Pupils will also be briefed about the situation so that they will not be distracted when they see us switching on the air purifiers in the midst of the exam," she added.

Earlier this year, the school in Choa Chu Kang held a haze drill to familiarise pupils and staff with what they need to do if haze levels rise.

Lessons on haze are also conducted to raise awareness among the school community.

In the event of school closure, schools such as South View Primary will deploy "home-based learning" packages. These may include online assignments to ensure students are engaged at home.

Last September, schools across the island were closed for a day due to worsening haze conditions. Two O-level exams were rescheduled, affecting about 100 students.

Schools contacted say they have precautionary measures in place in the event the haze situation worsens during normal school days.

Compassvale Primary, for example, will reduce the intensity of physical education lessons and co-curricular activities, and conduct them indoors if necessary.

Mr Chua Choon Guan, the school's principal, said his teachers have been asked to keep a lookout for pupils who are unwell.

In its reply to queries, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said that all school classrooms have been equipped with air purifiers.

Earlier this year, Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said installing air purifiers in classrooms will "further enhance the well-being of our students and staff during a haze situation".

The ministry added that if the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index is in the very unhealthy range of 201 to 300, doors and windows would be closed and air purifiers turned on.

"Schools have been advised to reopen windows or doors periodically or when the outdoor air quality improves to provide better ventilation and relief from thermal heat build-up in the classrooms," said an MOE spokesman.

"As always, classroom fans will be kept on at all times to ensure the thermal comfort of the students."

Madam Sharida said if haze levels rise, those who are not well or have pre-existing health conditions will be moved to air-conditioned rooms with air purifiers. They will be closely monitored and their parents will be alerted if necessary, she added.

MOE is closely monitoring the haze situation. Adding that schools have been briefed on the measures to be taken during a haze situation, it said: "As we approach the examination period, the health and safety of candidates and examination personnel remain the top priority."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'Making sure haze won't cloud exam season'. Print Edition | Subscribe