Schools need better protection against airborne infections: USGBC
May 9, 2022
The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has identified the need to better support school districts with implementation of airborne infection control strategies.
Building on a previous report from April 2021, Managing Air Quality in the Pandemic: How K-12 Schools Addressed Air Quality in the Second Year of COVID-19 highlights the need to better support school districts with implementation of airborne infection control strategies. The goal is to support mitigation of the immediate COVID-19 threat, as well as future pandemics and seasonal epidemics, and to improve overall indoor air quality (IAQ).
“Maintaining good indoor air quality is vital to support the health and wellness of students and faculty,” said Anisa Heming, director for the Center for Green Schools. “School districts recognize proper ventilation is critical to curbing the spread of airborne diseases like COVID-19. However, more than two years into the pandemic, they still need support to find the right strategies and resources to make the necessary changes.”
The report shows schools prioritized increasing outdoor air intake by all means available and reflects on the evolution of the pandemic and how schools have responded.
The Center for Green Schools report also highlights strategies and challenges from school districts serving more than 2.6 million students in over 4000 schools. Major findings in the report include:
The top challenge for schools in implementing many of the recommended IAQ measures was buildings’ HVAC systems were not designed to implement the recommendations.
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 they felt they had access to funding to support additional IAQ-related building improvements.
Non-urban districts were more likely to lean on state and local guidance, and urban districts were more likely to use federal-level guidance and guidance from national organizations like American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
More than a quarter of districts responded there were no new plans to implement additional ventilation, filtration, or other building changes in schools.