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Should K-12 Schools Spend COVID Relief Funds on HVAC System Upgrades?

June 9, 2022

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, 93% of the $122 billion funds allocated to K-12 school districts nationwide remains unspent. Schools are struggling to spend the money in a meaningful way for their community and student population needs. While some schools invest in teachers, there is a worry that a future lack of funding could mean layoffs for those hired with COVID relief money. Other districts spend the funds on technology, after-school programs, and facility upgrades. If the money distributed is not spent by September 2024, schools will no longer have access to the funds, creating a critical need for decision and action. 

In 2021, independent research organization RAND Corporation conducted a study of school parents, asking what would make them feel safest for in-person schooling. The top priority mentioned by parents in the survey was classroom ventilation. It only makes sense that schools consider HVAC system upgrades and other indoor air quality improvements as they analyze how to spend the remaining funding available for COVID relief. The last study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2014 indicated that the average age of US school buildings was 55 years old, putting 1959 as the average date of construction for American schools. That means that many school buildings could probably use some serious upgrades in HVAC systems to ensure maximum health and safety for students. 

What are some options for school systems looking to spend COVID relief money in a way that positively benefits both teachers and students in the long term? One great use of these funds would be to explore options for improving indoor air quality and ventilation in classrooms. 

Consider displacement ventilation systems 

Displacement ventilation systems offer a variety of benefits over traditional overhead mixing systems, including improved thermal comfort and energy efficiency, a quiet environment with improved acoustics, and enhanced indoor air quality. Displacement provides high temperature, low-velocity supply air that passes through the breathing zone before exhausting. The supply air starts at a low level and then carries contaminated aware away from occupants on its way to ceiling-mounted returns. Price Industries offers extensive information about the benefits of displacement ventilation in schools. 

Consider needlepoint bipolar ionization (NPBI) 

NPBI products from Global Plasma Solutions (GPS) offer patented technology that creates and releases ions into the airstream using existing school HVAC systems. When the ions go into the space, they bond with existing particles in the air, creating clusters of particles easily filtered by the HVAC system. Third-party testing of the GPS products indicates the successful removal of pathogens and contaminants. 

Consider filters, air cleaners, and purifiers 

Improve indoor air quality by providing filters, air cleaners, and purifiers. HVAC manufacturer’s reps offer a variety of solutions, including general ventilation filters, HEPA, MERV13A, and ULPA filters, high-temperature filters, molecular filters, pulse filters, and turbomachinery filters. These filters can reduce harmful airborne germs and increase indoor air quality.  

Improving environmental air in public schools is critical, and communities should be ready to spend the COVID relief funds available to provide vital system upgrades. We’ve outlined a few options schools should consider using for unspent COVID relief money. Talk to your local HVAC manufacturers’ rep about ways to improve specific HVAC systems and indoor air quality in K-12 schools.  


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Kelly Patterson

Kelly Patterson

Kelly Patterson is a lifelong learner and the marketing director at the Hoffman family of companies. There is nothing she likes more than talking about commercial HVAC systems and extraordinary customer service.

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