STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Every New York City public school classroom will have two air purifiers by the start of the 2021-2022 school year, according to a recent report by Chalkbeat.
Chalkbeat reported that the city Department of Education (DOE) has already distributed 100,000 air purifiers to schools, and are now working to ensure each of the city’s 56,000 classrooms have two air purifiers before schools reopen to all students for in-person learning in the fall.
They are high-efficiency particulate air filters, or HEPA filters, that lower the risk of exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The pledge to ensure every classroom has at least two air purifiers confirms what Kevin Moran, chief operating officer for school operations, told Staten Island families during an information session last month.
This upcoming year, the DOE is going one step further, he said, by bringing a second round of air purifiers into the mix to make sure there are multiple units in each classroom. The city will also put MERV-13 air filters on air conditioning units and window units for use during the summer.
He explained that the DOE began a multi-layer approach when looking at well-ventilated classrooms for the start of the current school year.
“We took a real multi-layered approach to how we fix these things and how we supplemented them, so every classroom has an air purifier, every classroom has operable windows,” said Moran. “If it doesn’t have our windows, we bring in outside air, fresh air, and if it had to be recirculated during the colder months or the warmer months, we use MERV-13 filters — as recommended.”
Custodians also work with principals in each building to make sure the structure is functioning as designed, and “if there’s a concern, we will handle it, and we’ll get to the building and visit and make the necessary repairs,” Moran said.
Before the start of the 2020-2021 school year, the DOE made improvements to its HVAC systems to improve air circulation, as well as replace regular air filters with higher efficiency filters. Air filters in building ducts were checked and changed to high-efficiency filters.
Additionally, air conditioning units will be identified and repaired, and other physical adjustments will be made to buildings in order to increase airflow.
The changes were made after New York State encouraged schools to increase their fresh air ventilation rate to maintain a healthy indoor air quality. Under the guidance from the state Education Department, the mandatory requirement was that schools must maintain adequate, code-required ventilation — natural or mechanical — as designed.
There are many different types of ventilation systems, natural or mechanical, that may be limited for increasing ventilation outside air due to available heat or fan/relief airflow capacity, according to the guidance. Schools were able to consider installing a higher efficiency filter, which may require a larger filter housing and will create greater resistance to airflow. The fan and HVAC system may have required rebalancing to maintain the code-required ventilation rate.
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