students in classroom

School Districts Need Help with IAQ: Report

  May 19, 2022

By Dan Hounsell

The Center for Green Schools recently released a new report detailing the ways school districts around the country have continued to manage indoor air quality (IAQ) within their schools during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report, Managing Air Quality in the Pandemic: How K-12 Schools Addressed Air Quality in the Second Year of COVID-19, highlights the urgent need to better support school districts with implementation of airborne infection control strategies to support mitigation of the immediate COVID-19 threat, as well as future pandemics, seasonal epidemics and to improve overall indoor air quality. 

The report shows that schools prioritized increasing outdoor air intake by whatever means were available and reflects on the way the pandemic and schools’ responses to it have evolved. Importantly for national advocates, the survey responses indicate that school districts in different locales (urban versus non-urban) are seeking guidance from different types of sources. 

The Center for Green Schools report illuminates strategies and challenges from school districts that serve over 2.6 million students in over 4,000 schools. Among major findings: 

  • The top challenge for schools in implementing many of the recommended indoor air quality IAQ measures was that buildings’ HVAC systems were not designed to implement the recommendations. Specific challenges were not found to be associated with any school district characteristics studied, such as demographics, locale or size. 

  • School district characteristics such as demographics, locale and size were not associated with the number of IAQ measures taken but were associated with the implementation of specific measures, such as increasing outdoor air through HVAC systems and assessing outdoor air delivery. 

  • American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding has been used to support the implementation of IAQ measures more than funding from operating or capital budgets. Just over one-half of school districts reported that they felt they had access to funding to support additional IAQ-related building improvements. 

  • Non-urban districts were more likely to lean on state and local guidance, and urban districts were more likely to use federal-level guidance and guidance from national organizations like ASHRAE. 

  • Over one-quarter of districts responded that there were no new plans to implement additional ventilation, filtration or other building changes in schools.

Dan Hounsell is senior editor, facility group.


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