The COVID-19 pandemic has forced our society to make many profoundly tough choices. One of the most controversial decisions is whether or not to reopen our nation's elementary and high schools. If schools reopen, should we adopt a hybrid model, stagger attendance to maintain physical distancing or simply operate at full capacity?
Regardless of what each municipality decides, the partial or full closures of schools nationwide have brought to public light how crucial a role indoor air quality plays in curbing coronavirus transmission in buildings and promoting well-being overall. The CDC has emphasized that "indoor spaces are…[riskier] than outdoor spaces where it might be harder to keep people apart, and there's less ventilation." Schools are no exception.
Ensuring proper air ventilation and filtration, when combined with other best practices recommended by the CDC (e.g., masks, physical distancing, hand-washing, surface cleaning), provides a comprehensive strategy to protect staff and students from indoor airborne contaminants such as the coronavirus. Despite the technical guidance provided by public health agencies and professional groups such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), each school district still has to make personalized decisions on how best to implement indoor air quality measures, given their unique current building infrastructure, resources, priorities and local politics.
Given the pressing need to address indoor air quality measures in schools, the Center for Green Schools and ASHRAE have launched a survey to analyze air quality strategies in schools executed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope to understand how school districts have been implementing indoor air quality recommendations on the ground and what support school districts need to respond to sudden and similar crises. This information will be critical in informing how government entities, policymakers, and nonprofits can better serve schools' needs as they continue to face uncertainty during the pandemic.
Call for volunteer participants: Participants eligible to fill out the survey are school staff who are knowledgeable about indoor air quality efforts at their school district, including, but not limited to, facilities managers, operations personnel and sustainability leaders.