Making sure haze won't cloud exam season

Calvin Yang, Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Sep 16;

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."

Low likelihood of haze in Singapore over next few days: NEA
Channel NewsAsia 13 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: The likelihood of Singapore being affected by transboundary haze is low for the next few days, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (Sep 13), with prevailing winds forecast to continue blowing from the south or southwest.

In a media advisory, NEA said a single hotspot was detected in southern Sumatra on Tuesday, and that the low hotspot count was due to a partial satellite pass. It added that no visible smoke plume or haze was observed, and that showers are expected over central and southern Sumatra over the next few days.

As for Singapore, NEA said thunderstorms are forecast in the late morning and early afternoon on Wednesday. The 1-hr PM2.5 concentration over the next 24 hours is expected to stay in Band I (Normal). Overall, the PSI for the next 24 hours is forecast to be in the Moderate range.

As of 6pm, the 24-hr PSI was 52-60, in the Moderate range, and the 1-hr PM2.5 concentration readings were 9-17 µg/m3, in Band I (Normal).

NEA added that given the air quality forecast for the next day, the public can continue with normal activities, while those who do not feel well - especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions - should seek medical attention.

- CNA/xk

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