ASHRAE-Supported Follow-Up Report On IAQ In Schools

Results indicate school districts are seeking additional guidance.

ASHRAE EntranceASHRAE provided technical support for a newly released report from the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), detailing how school districts around the country have continued to manage IAQ in schools during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Managing Air Quality in the Pandemic: How K-12 Schools Addressed Air Quality in the Second Year of COVID-19″ builds on an April 2021 report, “Preparation in the Pandemic: How Schools Implemented Air Quality Measures to Protect Occupants from COVID-19,” which was the first and only known national survey of on-the-ground implementation of indoor air quality (IAQ) improvements at schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new report highlights the urgent need to better support school districts with implementation of airborne infection control strategies to support mitigation of the immediate COVID-19 threat, as well as future pandemics, seasonal epidemics and to improve overall IAQ in schools.

The report cites strategies and challenges from school districts serving over 2.6 million students in more than 4,000 schools. Findings shows that schools prioritized increasing outdoor air intake by whatever means were available to them and reflects on how the pandemic and schools’ responses to it have evolved. Importantly for national advocates, the survey responses indicate that school districts in different locales (urban versus non-urban) are seeking guidance from different types of sources.

Additional Findings

  • Buildings’ HVAC systems were not designed to implement the recommendations, creating challenges not found to be associated with any particular school district characteristics studied, such as demographics, locale, or size.
  • School district characteristics such as demographics, locale, and size were not associated with the number of IAQ measures taken, but were associated with the implementation of specific measures, such as increasing outdoor air through HVAC systems and assessing outdoor air delivery.
  • American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding has been used to support the implementation of IAQ measures more than funding from operating or capital budgets.
  • Just over half of school districts reported feeling that access was available to funding to support additional IAQ-related building improvements.
  • Non-urban districts were more likely to lean on state and local guidance, while urban districts were more likely to use federal-level guidance and guidance from leading building industry organizations and associations such as ASHRAE.
  • More than a quarter of districts responded no new plans to implement additional ventilation, filtration, or other building changes in schools.

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab conducted research for the report compiled from a national survey of public school districts during October-December 2021 to assess the implementation of a range of ventilation, filtration, disinfection, and air quality monitoring strategies and was followed by focus group discussions with participants.

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