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365 and counting. That’s how many days thousands of students across the country haven’t been physically inside a classroom for learning. As efforts increase to get students back into classrooms, school administrators are working to better understand, implement and fund the latest CDC recommendations for in-person learning.
To help facilitate school re-opening, the U.S. Congress has allocated billions of dollars to support educational technology, address students’ basic needs and improve physical learning environments – from increased cleaning and sanitization procedures to addressing indoor air quality.
Many schools and school districts have questions about the new recommendations and how they can use the increased funding to meet them. Here are some of the frequently asked questions we’ve heard from school leaders.
1. The CDC mentions ventilation. What does that mean and what if it is too cold or hot to bring in more outside air?
Ventilation is critical for good indoor air quality but opening a window or a door isn’t a long-term solution and isn’t realistic in many climates. Using software-based analytics and ventilation strategies, you can manage fresh air intake and maintain energy consumption. There are also technologies like electronic air cleaners (EACs) with UV light sanitation that can provide cleaner, safer air, and video analytics that can help identify if rules, like mask wearing and social distancing, are being followed. These are changes that can be implemented in a time and budget-conscious manner. The first place to start, though, is with an Indoor Air Quality Assessment to identify and develop strategies that best suit a specific school’s needs.
2. Can I use federal funds to improve my heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems?
Yes. The funding enacted both in March (CARES) and December (CRRSA) provide a combined $67.5B to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). Federal funds are specifically allowed for testing, repairing and upgrading projects to improve air quality and ventilation in school buildings.
3. How do I get the funds to improve my school’s air quality?
The process varies by state, but usually requires a LEA (Local Education Agency) to submit a budget for approval to their SEA (State Education Agency). Federal funds must be allocated by specific dates, so the time to act is now. Honeywell experts are available to help you navigate the process.
4. What if my project isn’t eligible for government funding?
A 2020 GAO study found that almost 36,000 U.S. schools need to update or replace HVAC systems. There are other ways you can finance facility upgrades, like guaranteed performance contracts or federal, state and local grants, that can help lessen capital expenditures.
5. How can I reassure teachers, parents and students that my school meets the recommended indoor air quality standards?
Solutions that combine indoor air quality sensors and dashboards can show the health of the building in real time, help schools give parents better peace of mind to send their students back and give teachers more confidence about the building environments where they work.