The COVID-19 pandemic marked the beginning of changes for in-person learning and activities the likes of which have never been seen before in the State of New York. As thousands of K-12 schools closed and students, families and staff prepared for self-quarantine and limited social interactions, superintendents were confronted with complex and, in some cases, conflicting challenges.
Indoor Air Quality
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the transmission of COVID-19 occurs through respiratory droplets carrying the virus. The result was CDC risk-management guidelines focusing on ventilation systems and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), whose priority positions have since soared. These guidelines are the universal blueprint for re-opening schools – and keeping them open.
Following CDC recommendations is sometimes easier said than done, though the benefits reach above and beyond avoiding a veritable host of health problems that include allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions. Studies show that improved IAQ also reduces student absenteeism, and boosts academic performance and test scores. It has also been linked to higher teacher-retention rates and productivity.
Trane, which has been providing school districts with ventilation technologies for over 100 years, has identified four factors that can help superintendents improve their buildings’ IAQ:
- Dilute: Proper ventilation ensures plenty of fresh, outdoor air enters the building to dilute buildup of contaminates and help reduce the volume of air particles.
- Exhaust: Efficiently removing exhaust air, particularly from kitchens, restrooms and combustion systems, is equally important.
- Contain: Maintaining indoor humidity levels within the recommended range maximizes comfort and reduces microbial-growth risk.
- Clean: Cleaning and filtering technologies can enhance HVAC systems’ ability to reduce mold, bacteria, certain viruses and other microorganisms.
Student Education and Training
School leaders are not only making ventilation, IAQ and other sustainability technologies a top concern for school buildings. They are also expanding curriculums to educate students in these topics, and in the process, developing job-ready professionals.
For instance, Trane is partnering with the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3) in creating Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) labs and other hands-on training workspaces in participating schools. Trane is one of 13 companies NC3 has partnered with in the U.S. that is authorized to grant the NC3 certificate, which students receive when they complete the program. Also, Trane’s BTU Crew™ interactive curriculum teaches students energy-efficiency concepts using their own school building as an educational tool.