How school air quality can combat COVID

Heating and cooling fresh air can be healthier but more costly
By: | July 30, 2020

Deep cleaning leaps to mind as the No. 1 strategy for reopening school buildings safely but K-12 leaders can also make air-quality and other ventilation upgrades to try to reduce COVID transmissions.

Teachers and administrators should take a “total facilities” approach to sanitize classrooms, says  Seth Ferriell, CEO of SSC Services for Education, a support services company.

“For young kids, for instance, you can move out toys and bookcases so you can create natural social distancing,” Ferriell says. “It’s also important to control one-way traffic with signage to help younger kids move in right the direction.”


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When it comes to air quality, bringing more fresh air into buildings can be an effective strategy to kill the coronavirus.

However, school construction has trended away from using fresh air. And it generally takes more energy—and is, thus, more costly—to heat or cool fresh air—compared to recirculated air—particularly in overly warm or cold climates, depending on the time of year, Ferriell says.

In buildings with newer HVAC systems, administrators can also consider installing UV lighting or ionization technology that can kill the virus in ventilation systems. Some this more advanced technology can cost $1,ooo-$1,500 per classroom, he says.

Many schools could also upgrade filters that can block the virus, Ferriell says.

Administrators should make sure teachers, parents and others know about these kinds of upgrades to help them feel more comfortable about the school environment.

“You want to communicate what’s going on with a regular cadence,” Ferriell says. “More data, and more accurate data, makes people feel better.”


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.