Air Quality Action Updates

As we head into our December Holiday, I would like to offer an update of various initiatives the School has started to address the elevated AQI levels we have been experiencing. 

  1. Tackling construction site burning: Members of our community have expressed concerns regarding the burning that is occurring on the construction site across the road from the school. UNIS is in close contact with Ciputra regarding the situation. The School has contacted the police and in some cases, this has resulted in a change in practice. As a further preventative measure, Ciputra has sent official letters to three different governmental agencies to seek assistance in stopping the burning with an emphasis on the impact on the health and wellbeing of those who reside, work and are educated in Ciputra..
  2. Planning for improvement: UNIS has contracted with a sustainable design expert. As a school, our goal is to ensure the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in all classrooms is under 50 throughout the day. In order to achieve this goal our buildings will require modifications. The contract is to analyze and test the impact of various classroom modifications on the level of IAQ. The testing is one more step in preparing a comprehensive plan that brings us closer to achieving our goal of maintaining healthy IAQ levels. 
  3. Daily classroom action: The School continues to actively monitor IAQ in the classrooms. This means the School has an employee assigned to watch the levels at all times during the school day. When the level in a classroom reaches 100 or the machine appears offline, an employee is dispatched to review the situation. If all doors and windows are closed and the students have not been outside recently, the employee takes a manual IAQ reading to ensure the microchip is working. If the readings match, further action is taken. The additional steps range from repositioning air purifiers to redirecting traffic flow through specific doors to adding additional air purifiers to the space.
  4. Improving data reliability: The UNIS reading has consistently been higher than the AQI reading throughout Hanoi and our immediate surrounding area. We have been reporting and using the ground reading while waiting for a new pump to be installed for our roof reader. 

We have put several other initiatives in place to support our work in developing a comprehensive response plan to the AQI. Our Health & Safety Committee is discussing the AQI action levels and various monitoring techniques (such as real time monitoring and ground vs roof levels), the divisional Principals have analysed the daily schedule to maximize the use of indoor space for recess, breaks, and lunches, our Activities Department is currently reviewing communication guidelines to support consistent implementation of practices across ASA’s and community programs, the sustainability committee is creating a dashboard to display indoor AQI readings and the School is conducting a facilities assessment that will help determine the feasibility of building modifications. 

And finally, a parent AQI Advisory Committee has been established. This committee has been created to lend a parent perspective to our plan, to learn from those who have been in locations with similar AQI issues and are aware of the response of comparable schools and to ensure ongoing communication and transparency.

We look forward to updating you further after the break.

Misty Shipley
Director of Finance and Operations

AQI Update

This week brought us one of the best and one of the worst days that we have had in Hanoi in terms of Air Quality. What a roller coaster. As we continue to navigate this journey, we want to share additional information in response to your recent concerns and to keep you updated as we work together on this issue.

Please find below a reminder of our current procedures and some updates. As new information comes available we will continue to implement changes to our procedures and keep you updated. 

UNIS Hanoi Guidelines
The following are our current AQI guidelines for daily, school use. These levels were lowered during the 2018-2019 school year. Currently, our Health & Safety Committee is having conversations and determining if the levels should be adjusted down once again. The guidelines are developed using advice from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This information can be found on the School Health Centre section of the UNIS Hanoi website.

Adjustment for Sporting Events
International tournaments:
In agreement with our partner schools for international tournaments and festivals UNIS Hanoi follows the following guidelines:

Staging of outdoor activities will depend upon air quality, as measured by the US Air Quality Index (AQ) or its equivalent. Action Levels as follows:

  • Level 1 (1-200 AQI): No Modification Necessary.
  • Level 2 (201-250 AQI): The host school Athletic Director has the authority to modify or suspend activities.
  • Level 3 (251-500 AQI): The activity should be suspended and AQI monitored. The activity can resume once AQI drops below 251.

(Measurements are taken within an hour of game time.)

These guidelines were created in conjunction with other APAC and MRISA schools with the lens that teams had traveled internationally to compete. As a parent, we will support you in your decision to exercise parental judgement around your child’s participation.

Local Tournaments:
For local and Hanoi Activity Conference tournaments, the following guidelines are used as indicated in the Cocurricular Handbook:

  • The AQI cut off for playing an outdoor sport will be 200. Readings will be based on host school policy regarding the source of their data/reading of current AQI.
  • The host school will announce a cancelation by noon on the day of the event to ensure parents are informed in a timely manner. 

Which Air Monitoring Device?
Our standard operation is to use the monitoring device located at a height of 12 metres in accordance with expert recommendations. However, when the ground air is at very unhealthy levels, we also consider the impact on indoor air quality and may revert to the ground reading. Likewise, if the ground reading is healthy and the 12m reading is unhealthy we need to see if there are other weather factors to consider. We want to ensure that the students are outside whenever possible but without putting them in harm’s way. Furthermore, if the roof machine is broken or producing inconsistent numbers, we will use the ground reader. We have two ground readers so if one is offline, we can revert to the other.

AQI Notifications to Parents
The AQI level at the school is available to parents via the website on our AQI App. We do not notify parents of changes in AQI levels as they can be viewed at any time. The link can easily be saved to your phone homepage for easy reference.The data is updated every 5 minutes. 

School Closure/ Student Absence for AQI
Currently, we do not have a policy to “close school” in the event of high AQI levels. Should the School decide to develop a policy in this area, the parent community will be consulted and informed. We understand that elevated AQI levels affect individuals differently. In the event that you elect to keep your child at home on such a day, the School understands. Please notify your child’s school division if you plan to keep your child at home using the Attendance notice on the Parent Portal.

Indoor Monitoring
Indoor Air Quality Monitoring is a new initiative for the school. We recently micro-chipped all of our air purifiers and are streaming real time readings. This allows us to actively monitor the situation. We are still working out the kinks of a new process and determining the best way to collate the data for further analysis and the ways in which we might share this information with our community.

Currently, our active monitoring includes:

  • Remotely adjusting strength level of the air purifier based on the air quality level in the classroom
  • Visiting classrooms if a purifier is offline or offering consistently high readings to determine the reason and to ensure optimum positioning of devices is maintained
  • Conducting additional readings with our handheld device to ensure the microchips are calibrated correctly
  • Troubleshooting technology difficulties if needed.

Our initial goal is to ensure that all classrooms remain under AQI level 100. Why so high? UNIS Hanoi was designed as an ‘outdoor campus’ to take advantage of the benefits of a tropical climate. This means that most classrooms have direct access to the outdoors, so the lack of hallways allow the outdoor air to enter a teaching space whenever the door is opened (when the children enter and leave the classroom).  It then takes time for the air purifiers to filter the indoor air and lower the AQI level in the room. 

Long Term Vision and Short Term Measures
Please be assured, Administration and the Board is aware of the situation and conversations have begun on a long-term solution to addressing this issue. The School is undertaking a Strategic Planning exercise this year to ensure we address all our students needs for the future and the learning environment, including AQI protection is high on the agenda.

In the meantime, we are working on ways to help keep the AQI levels down in the classrooms. Current solutions include the following: adding additional purifiers to rooms, directing students to only use one door, and ensuring windows are sealed and doors are shut properly. During the times of extremely high AQI levels, we have begun to run the air purifiers throughout the night. This allows the students to walk into a healthy environment first thing in the morning.

Recess, Break & Lunch
If the AQI levels are above 200, all outdoor activities are cancelled. Alternative activities will be planned for recess and play time at lunch. 

Currently, in the event the AQI level reaches 200, all after school activities (ASA’s) will be moved indoors. UNIS Hanoi will not cancel the ASA’s.

Community Programmes
Many of our Community Programmes are outdoor activities and run by 3rd party vendors. In the event of high AQI levels, some of these activities may be cancelled. You will be contacted if cancellation occurs.

Moving between buildings
Students will still move between buildings to transit. If the parent wishes for their child to wear a mask, the School will support this decision.

Currently, the company that we contract with for transportation, does not have any additional air filtration system on their buses and vans. We have a large number of students who chose to wear a mask on the ride to and from school when the AQI levels are elevated. This is a parental conversation and choice and the School respects your decision either way.

Thank you for your understanding and patience as we work to ensure UNIS Hanoi remains a safe environment for your child to grow and learn.

Questions? Please write to and we will develop a Frequently Asked Questions forum on the Parent Portal.