Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that taking measures – including chopping the bottom off of doors – is “basic common sense” for improving ventilation in classrooms.
At Holyrood, the First Minister was challenged on the proposal, set out by minister Shirley-Anne Somerville on Wednesday.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the suggestion had been “met with derision” as he pointed to fire safety concerns over such a move.
It was announced this week that a sum of £300,000 will be set out by the Scottish Government so that around 2000 doors can be “undercut to increase air flow”.
The move is aimed at reducing the spread of coronavirus and improve air flow.
Raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions, Ross told MSPs: “The Covid pandemic began more than two years ago.
“The Scottish Government has had all that time to make our schools fit for use.
“Why then First Minister are we in the position after so much time that one of your government’s ideas to protect kids and teachers is to chop the bottom off of classroom doors?”
Sturgeon explained that her government continues to take “a range of measures” to ensure the safety of children and staff in schools.
She said: “Firstly, our schools are fit for use. Thanks to the dedication of teachers and other school staff, thanks to the sacrifices of young people and their parents, we’ve managed to keep our schools open during some of the most challenging phases of this pandemic, and that’s a credit to everybody in our education system.
“The Scottish Government continues to take a range of measures to ensure that children and staff working in schools are as safe as it is possible for them to be.
“One of those measures of course is one that Douglas Ross, against all logic and most expert evidence, opposes which is asking staff and pupils in secondary schools to wear face coverings, a basic mitigation.”
The First Minister defended the proposals set out in order to rectify situations where doors or windows are not enabling sufficient natural air flow.
“On this issue of ventilation… Douglas Ross is shouting, ‘chopping the bottom off of doors’,” said Sturgeon.
“When you’re trying to improve ventilation in a room, there’s a number of things you need to do – partly, that can be about air filtration to purify the air, partly that is about ventilation, so mechanical ventilation systems.
“But also partly, and this is the key point, it’s about taking measures to ensure that the natural flow of air in a room is maximised.
“So, if you have doors or windows that are not enabling that natural flow of air in the way you would want it to, then it strikes me as basic common sense that you would take measures to rectify that.
“And so what we’ve done is give additional money to local authorities to allow them to take whatever steps – air filtration systems, mechanical ventilation, or basic rectification of the structure of classrooms – to improve the flow of air.
“That strikes me as basic common sense and if Douglas Ross wants to have serious discussions about these matters, then perhaps he could start by making sure it’s a grown-up discussion.”
Ross criticised the First Minister for her refusal to acknowledged the move to “chop doors”.
He said: “I do want to have a serious discussion about this and this is a grown-up matter and issue.
“And it was telling, in a very long answer, several minutes there, the First Minister couldn’t even bring herself to accept this is chopping the bottom off of doors.
“However, she tries to dress it up, however she tries to say it’s basic common sense, it has been met with derision.”