With thousands of pupils sitting the written papers for the PSLE today, primary schools here are not taking any chances should the hazy conditions persist.
Many schools The Straits Times spoke to plan to hold the national exam in their air-conditioned facilities - from school halls to special classrooms - and these are fitted with air purifiers.
This is in contrast to previous years, when the bulk of the pupils sat the Primary School Leaving Examination in their respective classrooms, most of which are not air-conditioned. Over the last three days, some schools have made adjustments to their air-conditioned facilities, such as their IT Resource rooms, to hold the exam.
Qifa Primary School, for instance, cleared out such rooms on Tuesday and reconfigured them as classrooms, moving in desks and chairs that the pupils will use for the exam. Almost 200 pupils from the school in West Coast will be taking the PSLE this year.
"We've looked at the current situation and thought that it's better for them to be in air-conditioned rooms," principal May Wong said. In past years, the exam was usually held in the pupils' own classrooms, which are not air-conditioned.
Some schools, such as Damai Primary and Corporation Primary, are holding the exam in classrooms that are not fitted with air-conditioners, but will deploy additional fans and air purifiers. Pupils with pre-existing lung and heart conditions, however, will take their papers in air-conditioned rooms.
Mrs Lay See Neufeld, Damai Primary's principal, noted that staff will be on the alert to help pupils who show signs of discomfort.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) forecast the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index to be in the high end of the unhealthy range of 101 to 200 and low end of the very unhealthy range of 201 to 300 today. It may deteriorate to the mid-section of the very unhealthy range if denser haze is blown in.
The Government is also continuing to put pressure on firms it believes may be behind haze-causing fires. NEA said yesterday it had served Indonesian firm Bumi Mekar Hijau a legal notice. The firm has been told to take measures to extinguish fires on its land, not to start new ones, and submit plans on how it will prevent future fires. It had earlier sent such notices to four other Indonesian firms, and served Asia Pulp and Paper a legal notice to supply information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.
Schools here were closed last Friday due to worsening haze conditions but reopened on Monday. Measures have since been in place should the air quality deteriorate.
The Education Ministry confirmed last night that national exams like the PSLE will proceed as scheduled today. It said schools have made arrangements for candidates to take their papers in enclosed spaces. There are already processes in place for candidates who are ill during national exams, and these will apply to those unable to take the exam due to haze-related illnesses. "Candidates can be assured that they will not be penalised or disadvantaged if they are unable to take or complete the examination due to haze or other medical conditions."
Mrs Joyce Teo, 44, whose son will be taking the exam, said: "The kids are already feeling a lot of stress over the PSLE, and I am glad the schools are doing what they can to support them. But, of course, their health comes first."