How schools can become air quality champions this year

The COVID-19 pandemic affected every aspect of our lives for more than two years, but perhaps the hardest hit population were children who suddenly found themselves unable to go to school. This was disruptive not only from an educational standpoint, but socially, as well. That’s why school districts have done everything in their power so that children can experience a normal 2022–2023 school year. But that can only happen if superintendents make safety a top priority to prevent coronavirus outbreaks that could derail their carefully planned back-to-school plans. And it all starts with air quality. 

This isn’t just a local issue. Over the coming months, the Biden administration will be honoring and highlighting school districts who are excelling in their efforts to improve indoor air quality. It’s a great opportunity for leaders to be recognized for their amazing work, and to instill confidence in a public that is still skeptical that the worst days of the pandemic are behind us. 

According to a recent statement from the White House, in addition to vaccines, boosters, and COVID tests, one of the pillars of keeping schools open is, “helping schools plan and implement indoor air quality improvements.” Schools will have access to federal funds to optimize ventilation through inspection, repairs, upgrades, and replacements in their HVAC systems, as well as installing new systems that facilitate better ventilation.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are providing guidance to help schools develop best practices; and the Department of Energy (DOE) has launched the Efficient and Healthy Schools campaign to help schools implement new technologies and approaches to improve ventilation. 

The DOE effort includes a number of initiatives, but one that school administrators may want to pay special attention to is the recognition of “champion schools and districts who are leading the way on indoor air quality.” The administration will issue criteria for this award in the next few weeks, so savvy administrators will want to keep a close eye on the DOE website for details.

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