Providing safe in-person education has been a difficult undertaking for many schools around the country since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Here in New Jersey, most K-12 schools are open in some form for in-person instruction, but few are open full time. Most are following a part-time hybrid model, and some remain remote-only due to the many challenges of meeting health and safety guidelines.
Now, with the Biden administration pushing for reopening the majority of K-12 schools by the end of April, a new COVID-19 relief package in the works, increasing vaccine availability, and new school reopening guidance recently released by the CDC, there is a renewed focus in schools on one of the key COVID-19 mitigation strategies: improved ventilation.
As service sub-specialist in HVAC, building automation, process cooling in commercial, industrial and institutional environments, MSC is ideally positioned to help schools help reduce concentrations of infectious aerosols to the greatest extent possible through ventilation system improvements. This includes ASHRAE, OSHA, and CDC-recommended strategies like increasing ventilation rates, increasing outdoor air, upgrading central air filtration to the highest compatible and sealing systems to limit bypass, running HVAC systems for longer hours to increase air exchanges, and ensuring ventilation systems are operating properly to provide acceptable indoor air quality based on occupancy.
The real challenge for many educational facilities, however, is figuring out how to make these improvements happen. Many are hampered by aging buildings, poor ventilation systems, and lack of funding needed to correct these problems. Fortunately, there appears to be new hope on the horizon.
The $900 billion Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) signed into law in December 2020 included $82 billion for K-12 and higher education, and the proposed American Rescue Plan dedicates another $170 billion to help shore up schools. CRRSA allows a broad range of uses for funding allotted to schools, including “repairing school facilities, especially ventilation systems, to improve air quality and reduce the spread of COVID”, and President Biden’s proposed plan specifically mentions ventilation improvements, as well.