Education Department Outlines Funding Options for Ventilation Upgrades | Education News

The Education Department released guidance Friday for how schools, colleges and universities can tap into federal aid to upgrade ventilation systems ahead of a new school year.

The guidance comes as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials warn that the U.S. is at a “pivotal moment” in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic as the delta variant causes infection rates and hospital admissions to spike. The more contagious variant has already forced some summer camps to shutter after COVID-19 outbreaks among children, raising questions about whether schools will have the ability to reopen full time, five days a week for in-person learning.

“Protecting our schools and communities from the spread of COVID-19 is the first step in bringing more students back to in-person learning and reemerging from this crisis even stronger than we were before,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “With the American Rescue Plan, schools and districts now have access to unprecedented resources that will enable them to ensure proper ventilation and maintain healthy learning and working environments.”

Cardona is set to visit Kelley Lake Elementary School in Decatur, Georgia, on Friday – a school that plans to use federal relief to make indoor air quality improvements ahead of welcoming all students back to school next month for in-person learning.

“We are committed to helping communities identify how to use these resources quickly and effectively as they prepare to welcome all students back to in-person learning this fall,” he said.

The guidance outlines how schools can use funding from every round of federal coronavirus relief to improve indoor air quality, including the $122 billion for K-12 schools from the American Rescue Plan.

Cartoons on the Coronavirus

Funding can be used for inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement and upgrades to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification, fans, control systems and window and door repair.

Specifically, the money can be used for inspection, testing, and maintenance of current ventilation systems; purchasing portable air filtration units and filters for HVAC system; purchasing fans; repairing windows and doors so they can open to let fresh air in; servicing or upgrading HVAC systems consistent with industry standards; purchasing equipment to run outdoor classes; purchasing carbon dioxide monitors and air flow capture hoods; and paying for increased heating and cooling costs due to increased use of those systems.

The vast majority of students ended the 2020-21 school year learning with at least some virtual learning. Cardona has been urging school districts to reopen for in-person learning five days a week for the upcoming school year.