The school district in Manteca, California spent $2.8 million to install portable air purifiers in every classroom in an effort to provide cleaner air and keep schools open. Over the next 10 days, 1,400 purifiers are rolling into classrooms. The district’s desire to do something immediately drove their decision to purchase portable units. They also wanted to build redundancy into their COVID-19 safety protocols. The demand for HVAC upgrades to help safely reopen classrooms is happening across the country.
In addition, the Manteca Unified School District (MUSD) also focused on upgrading the district’s 2,600 HVAC systems to handle HEPA filtration. Beginning in mid-November, the district launched a $1 million IAQ program to evaluate each system and determine need. Some systems simply require new filters, while others need to be retrofitted for filter upgrades or replaced completely. The total investment in COVID-19 related expenses, including HVAC equipment, across MUSD’s 33 schools has surpassed $20 million.
“We cannot stress enough that our absolutely No. 1 concern is to make the classrooms as safe as possible for student safety and staff safety,” said Manteca Unified Community Outreach Director Victoria Brunn on January 5.
All of the funding comes from voter-approved school bond projects. The state of California allocated MUS $24.3 million to address COVID-19 related expenses. The $1 million filtration evaluation is funded through this bond. California recently authorized an additional $2 billion in funding was to help step up public school safety measures.
In an article by Manteca Bulletin, Superintendent Clark Burke said the IAQ program will coordinate with health and safety work funded by voter-approved school bond projects. This means if a bond-related project involves HVAC units that are: targeted for replacement and past their rated life, not energy efficient and/or too costly to maintain and cannot be retrofitted, then the cost to replace them will come from COVID-19 funds.
HVAC and IAQ Experts are Critical to Reopening Schools
This is just one example of how school districts are using state funding and bonds to safely reopen schools across the nation. Additional federal funding is on its way. That means it’s important that HVAC and IAQ specialists are involved in conversations with school district decision-makers. As the expert, you can help ensure that money spent on HVAC upgrades to reopen classrooms are sustainable solutions.
The COVID-19 relief bill gives direct funding to schools and has a section allocated for HVAC systems, which means more schools can invest in better air flow. https://t.co/3y3DU7hwTm— 5NEWS (@5NEWS) December 31, 2020
Upgrades like portable air purifiers and HEPA filtration are definitely a step in the right direction. However, improving the safety of a school by choosing IAQ upgrades is the better solution. This includes options like whole-building purification, filtration, humidity control, and mechanical ventilation. Thus, a comprehensive approach to improving the air students and faculty breathe is what districts need to understand.
The costs associated with portable air purifiers might prove to be less cost-efficient than a whole-building option. For example, maintaining 1,400 air purifiers and replacing filters every 2-3 months will take lots of time and money.
As the IAQ or HVAC expert, you are the one that can properly assess the building, HVAC system, current air quality and then use that data to make the best recommendations. The goal is to help students and faculty breathe cleaner air when schools reopen. For support, resources and training in IAQ solutions, learn more here.