As Vermont schools prepare to reopen in the fall, improving indoor air quality is a critical step that will help improve the health and safety of students and staff. Last week, Efficiency Vermont launched the School Indoor Air Quality Grant Program to help improve heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in Vermont’s K-12 public and approved independent schools.
The program was created by the Legislature, enacted by Governor Scott, and is intended to use federal coronavirus relief Funds to help improve school indoor air quality per national guidance around health and safety, according to the news release on July 9.
There is strong evidence that improving ventilation and filtration can slow the transmission of infectious diseases like Covid-19. The anticipated eligible projects under the program align with Covid-19-specific guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
The measure was sponsored by Sen. Andrew Perchlik, D/P-Washington County, who sits on the Senate Education Committee. “Getting the federal Covid relief money quickly out to the schools to address indoor air quality issues was a top priority of mine,” said Perchlik. “We are fortunate that the Legislature created Efficiency Vermont 20 years ago, which has the statewide infrastructure necessary to help our schools address this critical need.”
Schools that can help keep kids healthy, engaged, and learning will help caretakers stay at work as well.
In general, good air quality improves student attendance, performance, and long-term health. By improving respiratory health, studies have shown that students with improved respiratory health miss fewer days of school and improve in academic performance.
“This program highlights the value of partnerships between Vermont entities,” said Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French. “By leveraging Efficiency Vermont’s decades-long work with schools, and its relationships with qualified contractors and equipment suppliers, we believe we can make this investment in our schools and our students in a short time.”
Efficiency Vermont is designing the program in close coordination with the Vermont Agency of Education, the Vermont Superintendents Association, the Vermont Independent Schools Association, and school facility and indoor air quality experts.
“We are committed to helping schools access the funding and project support they need to safely reopen this fall,” said Daniel Reilly, director of public affairs at Efficiency Vermont. “We know finding contractors to complete projects can be challenging, especially in this short time frame. Our previous workforce development and engagement efforts position us well to mobilize the supply chain for this important work.”
The goal is to complete as much work as possible before schools open in September, and all projects must be completed by the end of the year.
“While this funding is just a start, it will help our schools make improvements to outdated systems that all of our schools rely on,” said Marc Brown, facilities manager for Kingdom East Unified Union School District and committee member of the Vermont custodian and maintenance association. “These are necessary steps to take to help slow the spread of Covid-19, and to support the long-term health of our students and staff.”
Interested school personnel can download an intro packet and complete an intake form to apply for funding at efficiencyvermont.com/schools.