With the recent passage of both the Coronavirus Relief and Appropriation Act, which gives $54 billion to schools, and the most recent American Rescue Plan passage, allocating $130 billion to schools for COVID-19 safety measures, school districts are considering the best way to use these funds appropriately. Facilities directors, purchasing departments, and superintendents are bombarded with information about various products intended to keep faculty, staff, and students safe, whether its products that facilitate virtual learning, or aid in bringing kids back to school, a priority across the country.
Installing plexiglass barriers is an effective way to facilitate distancing within a classroom setting. They prevent large respiratory droplets from a person in close contact with the barrier and provide physical distancing within the environment. However, they do not protect against all possible modes of transmission, such as aerosol transmission, which is a main mode of transmission. In a classroom, installing the plexiglass barriers can obstruct the view of the whiteboard, especially for students in the back of the classroom, so make sure you are taking steps to make sure each student can see the information presented in class. Plexiglass barriers can be disinfected but they take time to disinfect. If teachers are expected to disinfect between classes, it may take them longer than the break between classes to clean every surface properly. If these are installed, they are a good tool to be used throughout the pandemic, but they will be a nuisance beyond the pandemic.
Since March of 2020, many school districts have secured laptops for every child in the school system. While this was a good strategy for virtual learning during the spring and fall of 2020, in the spring of 2021 districts are prioritizing measures that will bring children back to the classroom. Access to technology helps to ensure children have equitable access to education, but can be a distraction within the physical classroom. The most popular laptop purchased by school systems is the Chromebook, which has an expiration date of 8 years from launch, meaning you will no longer receive updates from Google without purchasing a new computer. Make sure that you are not purchasing a new Chromebook close to its expiration date, or you may find that your district has to repurchase these computers sooner than expected.
Thermal Imaging Systems
Temperature checks have become a standard control to prevent potential COVID exposure in the workplace or school. Options range from a $50 non-contact infrared thermometer to a $3,500 thermal imaging system or temperature scanning kiosk. Thermal imaging systems are an effective way to measure someone’s surface skin temperature, without the requirement of standing close to someone. These systems cannot accurately measure the temperatures of multiple people at once, so this requires careful consideration during set up design. These systems are useful during the pandemic, but less practical long term, once the risk of COVID lowers. Some companies sell units that contain facial recognition software. You will want to ensure that any data storage by the company complies with local and federal privacy guidelines, such as FERPA and HIPAA.
Bipolar ionization creates reactive ions to react with airborne particles and contaminants including viruses. This technology has been touted as a “secret weapon” against COVID – 19, and has been installed in schools, churches, malls, restaurants, and other public places in response. However, these systems can create ozone, sometimes at high levels. There are currently no convincing, peer reviewed, scientific studies published on this technology. Additionally, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) does not currently have a position on this technology.
Portable Air Purifiers
Since March of 2020 ASHRAE has maintained that upgrading HVAC systems to MERV 13 filters or higher is a necessary engineering control, however in instances where the systems are too old to support filters with a higher MERV rating, portable air purifiers are an acceptable substitute. These portable air purifiers protect against aerosol transmission. Purchasing portable air filtration can be more cost effective than upgrading your entire HVAC system to support MERV 13 filters. The ASHRAE Position Document on Filtration and Air Cleaning states that “Mechanical Filters have been shown to reduce significantly indoor concentrations of airborne particles.” The document also states that “Photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) technologies have been shown to remove harmful contaminants, to be ineffective in removing contaminants, and/or to generate harmful contaminants during the air-cleaning process.” It also states that “Ultraviolet germicidal energy (UV-C) has been shown to inactivate viruses, bacteria, and fungi.”
Our TRI-KLEEN 500UV utilizes two mechanical filters, which include a MERV 8 prefilter and a HEPA filter, as well as UV-C technology to deactivate viruses, bacteria, and fungi. It’s also important to find a unit that is UL certified and CARB certified, such as the TRI-KLEEN 500UV to ensure that it meets strict safety standards. Our unit does not use PCO technology either, so you can breathe with ease. Finding a quiet portable air purifier, such as the TRI-KLEEN 500UV can be an important factor in making sure the unit is used in the classroom. It would be hard to hear classroom instruction with a loud unit, and there is no point to purchasing portable air filtration if it is not plugged in. TRI-KLEEN 500UV is quiet at 34-46 dBA, which is about the sound level of the average computer. The noise will not negatively affect the classroom environment, allowing it to stay operate throughout the day. This is especially important in middle and high school settings where students change classrooms.
To learn more about the TRI-KLEEN 500UV, you can email us at info@I-2-m.com or give us a call at 919-819-1978. We are more than happy to assist you as you consider the best engineering controls for your school district.