We are aware that there are many questions and concerns in the community regarding the district’s HVAC. It should be kept in mind that due to the small size of the COVID-19 virus, only filtration systems used in hospitals and clean rooms are sufficient to catch the virus. Systems in schools were never designed to meet these same standards. It should also be noted that even outside, with 100% fresh air, it is still possible to catch the virus from someone. That is why ventilation is only one part of a system to reduce the spread of the virus. This underscores the importance of maintaining social distancing, consistently wearing a mask properly, washing hands frequently, staying home when you are sick, and practicing proper respiratory hygiene.
Based on guidance provided by the NJDOE’s The Road Back, ASHRAE, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as two other professional service providers hired by the district, a fan will be placed in an open window in each instructional area to provide a continuous flow of fresh air to dilute the air in the classrooms. ASHRAE, a nationally recognized leader in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems suggests opening windows as an enhancement for outside air, especially when the system cannot accommodate MERV-13 filter or 100% outside air. They also suggest that, if fans are the only HVAC in the room a window should be opened. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests increasing outdoor air ventilation, use fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows, and decrease occupancy in areas where outdoor ventilation cannot be increased. Please recall that our reopening plan calls for a cohort model which reduces the occupancy of the classrooms by approximately 50%.
Even though we are under unfortunate circumstances, we are appreciative of the opportunity this pandemic has provided for the district to refocus efforts on our HVAC system. The district’s facilities and maintenance personnel have implemented enhanced processes for reviewing the HVAC equipment, including exhaust fans, rooftop units, and unit ventilators. Routine maintenance is being documented and repairs are being made as necessary. We are thankful to our crew for their dedication and hard work during this time. Additionally, tonight’s agenda includes a motion to approve a Preliminary Mechanical Ventilation Analysis by Parette Somjen Architects. The purpose of this study is to review and validate the work done to date by the district’s facilities team and provide recommendations and guidance on longer-term strategies for maintaining the district’s HVAC systems.
I have said before that the ability to keep our schools open is determined by the health of the community and those that surround us. Please stay home if you are sick, maintain social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and practice proper respiratory hygiene.
Jeanne Howe, Superintendent of Schools
The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education, New Jersey Department of Education (pages 19-20) https://www.nj.gov/education/reopening/NJDOETheRoadBack.pdf
ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force, Commercial
Operating schools during COVID-19: CDC's Considerations