By Curt Peterson
The Reading Select Board decided on Feb. 14 to invest $22,500 of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fund to provide air purification units in the Reading Elementary School building as well as other public buildings in town. On March 14 the selectmen approved an additional investment of $5,010 for two years’ filters and other maintenance items for public buildings.
The building has belonged to the Windsor Central Unified Union School District, and not the town, since Act 46 consolidation in 2015, but the board decided investing town ARPA funds in a healthy environment in the facility that educates Reading children, along with students from other district towns, is appropriate. Frequent air exchange is one of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for school buildings.
There are currently 33 students at RES, including pre-kindergarten and kindergarten through 3rd grade classes.
The Reading ARPA Committee had conferred with the district board to make sure the town isn’t duplicating actions to improve ventilation in the school building they might be planning. The Mountain Times reached out to local district board members Adam Ameele and Anna Sessa for comment, but neither responded prior to publication.
Reading chose AERUS ActivePure portable units that can be moved from classroom to classroom as needs dictate.
According to the AERUS website, “In unaffiliated third-party laboratory tests, ActivePure has been proven to reduce up to 99.9% of the pathogens including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19).”
James Fenn, director of finance and operations for the WCUUSD district, explained the AERUS units are considered a donation by the town of Reading and will gratefully be used in a “pilot program” during months when district-owned school building windows will be closed. The filters, etc., will enable staff to service the units through 2024.
“We … do not plan to purchase any other AERUS units for other schools,” Fenn told the Mountain Times. “We do own a number of portable HEPA filtration units that were purchased at the beginning of the pandemic, that were used in [district] classrooms without adequate mechanical air exchange systems.”
Fenn said the district plans to use its own ARAP funds for “replacement or addition” of air exchange and/or filtration systems in RES, Killington Elementary, and Woodstock Elementary, in 2023 and 2024, once the Agency of Education approves the project plans.
“These new whole building systems will eliminate the need for portable units such as the AERUS and HEPA filtration (units),” Fenn said. “Our long-term plan is to update all of our buildings so that we will not need to continue to use portable units.”