School administrators, faculty, and parents all want the same things for their students. They want to get them back in school learning. Even so, safety concerns during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remain a top concern for schools across the country. While children have a lower risk of getting COVID-19 than adults, they can bring the virus home with them. This poses a risk to elderly family members and those with underlying health conditions. Teachers and staff remain vulnerable in schools as well. As a result, building engineers, maintenance staff, and other stakeholders face challenges in the ways coronavirus impacts schools this fall.
Outdated Mechanical Systems
Outdated or underperforming mechanical systems is a big problem facing school reopening plans. A recent study by The Government Accountability Office (GOA) found that more than half of the nation’s school districts have outdated building systems. Forty percent of these 13,000 school districts need new or updated HVAC systems in at least half of the schools in their systems. As a result, almost 40,0000 schools across the U.S. face issues of poor indoor air quality. These systems need repair or replacement before it is safe for students and faculty to return, but a lack of funding makes this difficult for many districts to address.
The financial impact of school closures is a real concern as school districts face revenue shortfalls. In addition to strained budgets and layoffs, schools foresee freezes in hiring and pay raises and cuts to special programs as inevitable.
Every state feels the stress caused by these cuts even as costs continue to rise. As a result, it may take several years for districts to recover. Emergency funding and budgets are for local governments and school boards to figure out. What is more important as we begin a new school year, is how to bring kids back to K-12 classrooms in as safe a manner as possible.
Keeping Staff and Students Safe
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children learn better when they are in school but safety remains a priority. As we learn more about how the coronavirus impacts schools, limiting the spread of the virus is key. The following actions help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and other pathogens in classrooms:
- Clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces
- Teach children how to wash hands properly and enforce frequent handwashing rules
- Reduce the number of students in classrooms
- Eat lunch at desks, not in the cafeteria
- Use outdoor space whenever possible
- Make masks mandatory for older children and adults
In addition to these actions, schools need to have plans for remote teaching should the need arise. Teachers should move from classroom to classroom while students remain in the same one. Physical distancing of at least six feet and spacing desks three feet apart reduces contact in the classroom. Following CDC guidelines on proper disinfecting and sanitizing all common areas is effective in reducing the spread of the virus as well.
Improving IAQ Reduces Risk
Improving indoor air quality is important. For example, making repairs or updating old HVAC systems is an effective way to limit the spread of mold, bacteria, and viruses throughout the building. Pure Air Controls does this using a combination of services including PURE-Decon, PURE-Steam HVAC/Coil Cleaning, and PURE-Duct Cleaning.
Here are some additional ways to ensure the safety of K-12 students during this pandemic.
Bipolar ionization is a way to improve IAQ. HVAC-mounted ionizers deactivate airborne viruses using proactive air purification technologies. These devices use positive and negative ions to destroy viruses resulting in cleaner, healthier air and reducing the risk of infectious outbreaks.
Detecting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 helps school districts develop remediation plans. The Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory, or EDLab, set up by Pure Air Control provides environmental verification and clearance testing for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 with results available in 5-7 days.
The decontamination protocols used by Pure Air Control Services address the occupied space and HVAC system by assisting facility managers with their plans for emergency decontamination.
Completion of key optimization and cleaning services results in certification as a Pure Air Indoor Environment. These services focus on the disinfection of occupied spaces and HVAC systems, but also on IAQ testing, monitoring, and air purification.
5 Steps to Pure Air Indoor Environment Certification:
- Cleaning & Restoring HVAC Systems – Hygienic cleaning of HVAC units with PURE-Steam™ followed by restoration using anti-microbial paint.
- Reducing Particles – Supply and return ductwork gets hygienic cleaning with negative air machines using HEPA filtration.
- Neutralizing Pathogens – Disinfection using EPA-registered disinfectants neutralizes all bacteria, mold, and viruses.
- Air Purifying – Air purifiers with EnviroSmart™ detection technology and multi-stage HEPA filtration provide continuous air cleaning to remove allergens, microbes, and particles.
- Monitoring Conditions – IAQ Guard sensors monitor facilities around the clock and alert building engineers to changes in temperature, humidity, and the presence of CO2, particles, and volatile organic compounds.
The ways coronavirus impacts schools are a concern for all of us. Pure Air Control addresses indoor environmental quality and indoor air quality issues so our kids can make a safe return to classrooms this fall. Contact Pure Air Control today to find out more.