A new and popular trend has parents covertly placing CO2 monitors in their children’s backpacks. (Courtesy of Masterfile, Royalty-Free Div.)
A new and popular trend has parents covertly placing CO2 monitors in their children’s backpacks. (Courtesy of Masterfile, Royalty-Free Div.)

The recent announcement by federal officials about vaccine booster shots and the uptick in the vaccinated population has spurred renewed belief that the end of the pandemic might finally be near.

But that hasn’t reduced safety concerns for those children and adults who have recently returned to the nation’s classrooms.

In fact, one new and popular trend has parents covertly placing CO2 monitors in their children’s backpacks, allowing them to measure the safety of the air in the school.

The trend owes its thanks in part to a social media group that spawned a nationally published news article. Parents reportedly can set the monitors to take readings every few minutes to generate information.

Available at places like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart, the carbon dioxide detectors can sense the presence and concentration of CO2, a dangerous gas often found in the natural environment and most commercial and industrial processes. The sensors can identify poorly ventilated areas that are cause for alarm in the era of COVID-19.

“Because I am a single parent and my boss ordered everyone back to work, there was no way I could consider [home schooling] for my children. Still, I am afraid that they could catch COVID by being in school,” Ayesha McBride, a Prince George’s County mother of three school-aged children, told The Informer.

“I found out about the [monitors] on Twitter and then I did some homework and decided ‘what the heck?’ At least it gives me some peace of mind. I know that I won’t be deceived by propaganda because I will know just what the air quality is in that school,” said McBride, who used her maiden name and didn’t want The Informer to print the name of the school to protect her and her children’s secret.”

On Twitter, McBride and other parents have used the hashtag #CovidCO2.

Reportedly, the parents have exchanged ideas on how others can smuggle the monitors into school. They are also deciding how to approach schools with their findings.

“DCPS has not had an incident like that,” said District of Columbia Public Schools Press Secretary Enrique Gutierrez. “We want to make sure District families know that DCPS has made more than $24 million in HVAC upgrades to improve filtration and ventilation in every building.”

Gutierrez said mobile units with medical-grade HEPA filters clean the air in District classrooms.

“We also have UV lights in places like the bathroom to keep any germs present from replicating,” Gutierrez assured. “MERV-13 filters in building-wide systems [also] help reduce the type of air particles that even enter the building.”

Other Districts around the country have been slow to implement such safety measures and have rebuked any efforts by parents to send children to school with CO2 monitors.

“Our school isn’t too happy about the CO2 monitor but we are using it as part of a ‘science fair project,’” Vanna J. Hoodlander wrote on Twitter.

Reportedly, one parent who sent her third-grader to school in Philadelphia with the monitor made an alarming discovery.

During lunch, CO2 levels in the cafeteria rose to nearly double those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The parent, Lizzie Rothwell, told the New York Times that she shared what she’d learned with the principal and asked if students could eat outside instead.

“He expressed surprise that I had any data at all,” she told the newspaper.

Schools in New York have distributed the devices while other districts are considering doing the same. Additionally, the parents who began the trend might ultimately save school districts a lot of money.

“Ideally, there’d be some machine that costs $100 and it starts beeping if the virus is in the air,” Jose-Luis Jimenez, an aerosol scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, remarked.

Jimenez also sends his son to school with a CO2 monitor.

“CO2 is something that provides an affordable and very meaningful shortcut,” he noted.

On Twitter, Dr. Alex Huffman, a bio-aerosol scientist and chemistry professor at the University of Denver, recommended buying or borrowing a CO2 sensor.

“Stick it in the mesh water bottle pocket of your kid’s backpack, pin it into their shorts, or send it in their lunchbox,” Dr. Huffman insisted. “Be creative. Make sure it isn’t sealed away. The more airflow, the better the reading.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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