School operations

Ventilation and Air Purification


This policy describes how to ventilate indoor school spaces, maximise the use of outdoor spaces and operate air purifiers to reduce the risk of airborne infectious disease transmission (including COVID-19).


  • Schools can reduce the risk of transmission of airborne infectious diseases (including COVID-19) through the way they use outdoor and indoor spaces.
  • To reduce the risk of catching or passing airborne infectious diseases to others, schools:
    • are required to maximise fresh air flow into all indoor spaces (for example, by opening windows and doors)
    • should increase the use of outdoor learning areas wherever practicable
    • should use air purifiers alongside natural and mechanical ventilation
    • should minimise the use of indoor space that can’t be ventilated with outside air.
  • Schools should implement measures for a safe and comfortable learning environment (for example, considering thermal and noise comfort) with ventilation strategies in place.
  • Staff who move or lift air purifiers must follow the occupational health and safety measures in this policy to minimise the risk of injury. Refer to the Guidance tab.
  • Resources for schools, including printable fact sheets and a poster to display in classrooms and other school spaces, are available on the Resources tab.


Airborne diseases are caused by pathogenic microbes small enough to be discharged from an infected person via coughing, sneezing, laughing and close personal contact or aerosolization of the microbe. The discharged microbes remain suspended in the air on dust particles, respiratory and water droplets. Illness is caused when the microbe is inhaled or contacts mucus membranes or when secretions remaining on a surface are touched.

Schools can reduce the risk of airborne infectious disease transmission through increasing ventilation of indoor spaces, reducing the use of spaces that can’t be ventilated with fresh air and using air purifiers to assist ventilation, particularly in areas which pose a higher transmission risk.

Ventilation and air purification are important strategies in the broader suite of controls to reduce the risk of airborne infectious disease transmission in school settings including vaccination, physical distancing, good hygiene, cleaning and mask use, but should not be considered in isolation of these other measures.

There are 2 ways indoor air quality can be improved:

  • ventilation – bringing in outside air by opening windows and doors or by using mechanical systems (such as air-conditioning systems and fans)
  • air purification – using air purifiers to filter the air.

Where practical, schools can also reduce the risk of airborne infectious disease transmission by using outdoor learning areas in place of indoor learning areas.

The level of transmission risk varies between different types of indoor school spaces, as do the most effective strategies for reducing this risk. Refer to Room risk ranking and management strategies for more information.


Schools are strongly encouraged to maximise fresh air flow into all indoor spaces. Ensuring adequate ventilation is one of the most effective measures to keep schools safe. The most effective strategies for using ventilation to improve indoor air quality will vary depending on the room and the equipment available to the school. If inclement weather does not permit open windows and doors all day, consider opening them intermittently for short durations, for example for 10 minutes every hour.

Refer to Using ventilation to improve indoor air quality under the Guidance tab for further information.

Window maintenance

Schools are strongly encouraged to fix windows that are designed to be opened but do not open, through their general maintenance processes. This should be funded by a school’s Student Resource Package maintenance funding.

In some instances, schools are required to balance the requirement to bring in outside air with the risk of students absconding from their learning spaces. Schools are encouraged to consider and implement solutions such as installing fly screens for windows, mesh security doors for doorways, and indoor safety gates. Speak to your regional provision and planning manager for further advice and assistance on window maintenance.

Use air purifiers alongside natural and mechanical ventilation

Air purifiers complement ventilation methods by removing infectious particles from the air. They do not replace other ventilation methods. Air purifiers filter existing air within a space and do not bring in outside air.

Air purifiers should be used alongside open windows and doors and with mechanical ventilation in operation. Additionally, schools are strongly encouraged to use air purifiers if it is not possible to keep doors and windows open all day (for example, due to inclement weather).

For information about the operation, placement, cleaning and maintenance of department-supplied air purifiers, refer to Operation and placement of air purifiers.

Other strategies to reduce airborne infectious disease transmission

Maximise the use of outdoor learning areas

Alongside the use of various ventilation methods, schools are strongly encouraged to conduct outdoor learning whenever and as much as practicable, noting that there may be less opportunity in winter months.

Identify spaces within your school that could be used for outdoor learning. These spaces could be areas that are already sheltered and shaded. The use of this space could be rotated between classes.

Consider options to set up different spaces, depending on weather conditions.

Aerosolised disinfectants

The use of products which introduce particles into the air to ‘disinfect’ indoor air, such as gels, liquids, spray bottles, aerosols or vaporisers, is not recommended.

There can be allergen concerns with the introduction of particles, chemicals or oils into the air. Aerosols are not a proven method to reduce the risk of transmission of airborne infectious disease in indoor environments.


Air purifier
An air purifier is an indoor portable device that filters domestic or industrial air, and which is used primarily to remove pollution, improve air quality, and purify the air.

The circulation of fresh air.

Relevant legislation

Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004External Link – section 21(1) requires an employer to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for employees of the employer a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

Department policy ensuring schools understand how they can reduce the risk of airborne disease transmission by ventilating indoor school spaces and using air purifiers

Reviewed 02 February 2023

Policy last updated

3 February 2023


  • Schools


Victorian School Building Authority

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