Now that students are returning to in-person learning, here’s how to improve air quality in schools and keep pupils, teachers and their families (that’s you!) safe.
As school districts around the country plan for the transition back to live learning, teenagers are hanging their heads in “agony” over having to set alarm clocks, and parents nationwide are attempting to wrangle toddlers into shoes, since said toddlers are used to wearing either pajamas or Superman costumes to lunch.
The most critical piece, however, of returning to in-person learning is safety. How can we make our schools safe for both teachers and children? The key to reducing the risk of COVID transmission lies in improving indoor air quality in those schools.
Beyond the risk of airborne virus spread, poor air quality inside schools can lead to a number of serious health issues and is directly correlated with diminished academic performance. The good news is that there are a number of steps schools can take to improve air quality and create a safe, healthy environment for students.
7 Ways to Improve the Air Quality in Schools
1. Keep doors and windows open
Ventilation is key to creating better indoor air quality. According to the CDC, “even just cracking open a window or door helps increase outdoor airflow, which helps reduce the potential concentration of virus particles in the air.”
The EPA has found that air indoors contains common contaminants at levels 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor air, so opening windows or doors whenever possible can make a huge difference for cleaner inside air.
By mixing a classroom’s stale air with fresh air from outside, airborne pollutants are diluted. The risk of students breathing in something harmful is significantly reduced when there’s a steady flow of new air entering the room.
2. Survey airborne pollutants
Commonly found in schools, molds significantly reduce air quality and can trigger allergies. An indoor air quality sensor can quickly detect the presence of potentially harmful mold and alert school officials.
Paint, turpentine and other materials used by students in art class, the custodial staff’s cleaning supplies, and even exhaust from cars and buses idling in the parking lot can negatively impact schools’ indoor air quality.
Administrators should take inventory of what potential contaminants are regularly released on school grounds in order to create a plan to mitigate their presence.
3. Practice good housekeeping
Carpets and rugs are the perfect nesting spot for tweens to congregate. Unfortunately, the same can be said for a wide variety of allergens, which can be easily kicked up from the floor and returned to the air we breathe. Rugs and carpets should be regularly vacuumed and steam cleaned in order to prevent these pollutants from recirculating in the air.
Similarly, floors should be mopped on a regular basis. Other surfaces, like window sills, should be dusted and wiped down each day. Removing pollutants from surfaces is an important way to prevent them from ending up in the air.
4. Understand indoor air quality measurement
As much as a middle school teacher might insist that there’s “something in the air” when referring to raging teenage hormones or TikTok drama, we’re talking about viable dangers like viruses, molds and bacteria. School officials must commit to regularly checking contaminant levels in the air.
That might seem like a substantial undertaking, but it isn’t as daunting as it sounds. There are a number of indoor air quality solutions that can help administrators stay on top of air quality.
By using a smart indoor air quality monitor, officials can check for the presence of a wide variety of pollutants. These devices also display the levels of said contaminants, so administrators can take real-time decisions about how to best handle
One example of an air quality monitoring solution is a particle counting meter. PM meters monitor particulate matter (PM) concentrations in the air, and can provide a quick, big-picture overview of overall indoor air quality.
5. Evaluate HVAC systems
In order to create your school’s action plan for clean indoor air, you must understand where you’re starting. A school’s current HVAC system has a huge impact on day-to-day air quality.
How old is your school’s HVAC system? Does it have a built-in air purification system? Does it use mechanical ventilation? Does it effectively manage humidity levels? Answering these questions is critical to understanding how to maintain the best possible air quality in schools.
6. Prioritize maintenance
In order to operate at their highest potential, it’s critical that HVAC systems are regularly serviced by technicians. The U.S. Department of Energy says that routinely replacing or cleaning an air conditioner’s filters is critical – otherwise, “clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow” and reduce a system’s efficiency.
The DOE adds that regular maintenance can end up saving your school money. “Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%,” the department says.
7. Embrace air purifiers
Air purifiers use a variety of methods – ranging from physical filters that trap microscopic airborne particulates to ionization and electrostatic fields that attract pollutants – to remove harmful substances from the air we breathe. The CDC recommends that schools consider using air purifier systems to improve indoor air quality in schools.
A plug-and-play air purifier solution is a great option for schools that don’t have the resources to revamp their entire HVAC system or buy an air purifier for every single classroom. Tadiran’s Air Care O2 easily fits into existing units, instantly transforming standard air conditioners into super-effective air purifiers.
Via tiny amounts of Hydrogen Peroxide, the device actively cleanses and purifies the air. In FDA-cleared lab tests, the system has been proven to eliminate viruses, bacteria and mold at a rate of up to 99.999%.
If you’d like to learn more about the best air purifier technologies for your school, get in touch with us here at Tadiran. We’d love to guide you in your search.