COVID Relief Packages Include Funding for Indoor Air Quality in K-12 Schools

COVID Relief Packages Include Funding for Indoor Air Quality in K-12 Schools 1

As we officially pass into another year since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, public schools nationwide wrestle with how best to prepare for reopening. Staff and student safety amid budget constraints has been a leading concern that this recent round of pandemic relief funding has done much to mollify.

The Legislative Packages Explained

School closings and the inadequacy of virtual learning due to the Covid19 pandemic has fouled the efforts of our nation’s teachers to provide students with a standard education. To support educators during this time of massive learning loss, the federal government has provided billions of dollars in relief money.

Here are the three stimulus packages as they pertain to K-12 schools:

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (1)

March 2020, $13.2 billion

Primary purpose: facilitate online learning and assist schools in purchasing PPE (personal protective equipment) for teachers and products to sanitize classrooms.

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) (2)

December 2020, $54.3 billion

Primary purpose: provide supplemental budgetary relief as was initiated by the CARES Act.

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) (3)

March 2021, $126 billion primary purpose: aid schools’ reopening efforts, address learning loss, and create a healthy learning environment for students and teachers by improving indoor air quality in school buildings.

The American Rescue Plan, more so than CARES or CRRSA, focuses heavily on education ($168 billion overall), with schools in K-12 receiving the bulk of that money.

K-12 Relief Funding Allowable Expenditures

As a condition of receiving funds under the most recent plan, ARP, schools must use at least 20% of their stimulus money on learning loss initiatives. The remaining funds may be used by schools for any activities that address student needs and learning.

Notably absent from the former two grants, but is included in the ARP, are:

• School facility repairs and improvements to reduce the risk of viral transmission and exposure to unhealthy indoor pollutants

• Implementing public health protocols including policies in line with guidance from the CDC for school‐reopening

• Inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrades to improve indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification, and other air cleaning systems (4)

The Importance of IAQ in Schools

Even before Covid-19, we knew that poor indoor air quality can negatively affect student health. (5) In addition to communicable infections such as Covid19, pollutants such as molds, dusts, and fumes have the potential to negatively impact a student’s wellness, ability to concentrate, and classroom performance.

According to the EPA,

Good indoor air quality contributes to a favorable environment for students, performance of teachers and staff and a sense of comfort, health and well-being. These elements combine to assist a school in its core mission — educating children. (6)

Beyond the obvious concerns of students’ contracting viruses such as Covid19, the EPA notes a variety of ailments (7) caused by poor IAQ, including:

• Asthma
• Respiratory tract infection and disease
• Allergic reactions
• Headaches
• Nasal congestion
• Eye and skin irritations
• Coughing
• Sneezing
• Fatigue
• Dizziness
• Nausea

In addition, indoor air pollutants and temperature extremes and humidity may cause discomfort, which also can affect students’ ability to concentrate and learn.

In the early stages of our current pandemic, little was known about the risks of the infection beyond that the virus traveled on moisture droplets and could be contracted by touch. But now we know that there is a risk of transmission via airborne particulate matter which underscores the importance a healthy IAQ. Unfortunately, there are many schools across the country that have outdated and/or ineffective HVAC systems.

Recommended School Improvements

• Ensure the proper operation of school HVAC systems
• Adopt air filtration and pollution removal policies to improve IAQ
• Change filters regularly
• Control temperature and humidity levels
• Keep indoor / outdoor air ventilation constant
• Isolate and remove odors and other contaminants through quality control efforts such as filtration

Not all HVAC systems accomplish all of these recommendations. The Brookings Institute (8) determined that in the absence of funding to upgrade aging school ventilation systems, air filtration (air purification) is far more cost effective. In fact, “filters can even reduce virus-containing aerosol particles, with obvious implications for classroom safety in our current pandemic.”

Our Products Can Help

Whether you need all new air cleaning systems, supplemental air purification, or HEPA filtration products, Extract-All ® Ultra Clean Air for Schools is your one-stop solution.

Our air cleaning products work by capturing airborne contaminants and pulling them through a HEPA or ULPA filter media and then returning the clean air into your classrooms. This portable unit is designed to protect people from exposure to infectious diseases as well as other indoor pollutants. The Extract-All ® Ultra Clean Air unit can be rolled from one room to another, and easily fits into areas with limited floor space.

Contact us today for a free estimate with one of our clean air specialists.