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Improving Indoor Air Quality in Schools – Resource Spotlight

Jul 29, 2022 | Angana Roy

Local health departments have a role to play in supporting healthy schools and improving the health of students, teachers, and staff alike. The 2019 NACCHO Profile study found that 98 percent of LHDs work with K-12 schools in some capacity. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, school districts may be seeking ways to improve indoor air quality both as a way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and as a way to improve overall health.

The following resources can help local health department staff understand where to begin when it comes to supporting schools in their efforts to improve indoor air quality.

  1. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) webpage “Take Action to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Schools” has short, dedicated sections that suggest action steps for: facility managers; school officials; teachers, staff, and health professionals; and parents and students. Each section links to further resources that may be helpful for the specific audience listed. epa.gov/iaq-schools/take-action-improve-indoor-air-quality-schools
  2. The EPA “Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit” provides specific checklists as well as supplemental factsheets for teachers, administrative staff, nurses and health officials, and school officials. In addition, there are also checklists and factsheets for a range of specific school functions, including food service, waste management, and ventilation. epa.gov/iaq-schools/indoor-air-quality-tools-schools-action-kit
  3. ASHRAE’s “Managing Air Quality During the Pandemic: How K-12 Schools Addressed Air Quality in the Second Year of COVID-19” report is an in-depth report that finds schools have relied on increasing outdoor air intake, through both HVAC system upgrades and by opening windows, to improve indoor air quality during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, this report details the challenges schools face in upgrading their facilities to improve indoor air quality, with a top concern being that existing equipment cannot be easily updated. The cost of new equipment was reported as a concern as well, particularly with regard to air filtration strategies.
    This report also notes that American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding has been used to make engineering upgrades to improve indoor air quality, and used more frequently than funding from capital or operating budgets. ashrae.org/file%20library/technical%20resources/covid-19/managing_air_quality_during_the_pandemic.pdf

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