School IAQ Top Priority of Federal Funds

Report looks at ways school districts plan to invest federal aid, with a focus on planned funding for large-scale facilities-related work.   November 28, 2022

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor

The Center for Green Schools recently published new findings about the way school districts are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically as it relates to investing federal relief funds to manage indoor air quality (IAQ) and upgrade facilities

The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (ARP-ESSER or ESSER III) represented federal investment in K–12 schools and support over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the case of school facilities. The funding offered school systems a chance to address a critical backlog of deferred maintenance, needed equipment and infrastructure repairs, and upgrades to outdated building systems to improve health, air quality and comfort. 

The report looks at the ways school districts across the country plan to invest that federal aid, with a focus on planned funding for large-scale facilities-related work. Major findings include: 

  •  Although staff capacity, inflation and supply chain shortages are affecting infrastructure projects, school districts have prioritized significant ESSER III funding to support IAQ for their students and staff. Of all the funding categories tracked in the data set, air filtration and HVAC was the second highest category for district planned spending at $5.5 billion, just behind staffing, teachers, academic interventionists and guidance counselors. 
  •  In addition to filtration and HVAC improvements, in most cases districts that planned to spend in this category also indicated plans to spend in at least one other facilities category, displaying a layered approach to addressing COVID-19 at the building infrastructure level. 
  •  District interviewees said that where HVAC upgrades were made in their schools, they were able to keep energy use and costs to a minimum compared to schools with outdated systems. Similarly, interviewees reported positive results from spending in other facilities categories to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 25 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management. 


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