Update on School Ventilation Questions

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Hi-I am one of the LUT officers (Lee Gardner). We have received many questions about ventilation in the schools. I spoke with Mr. Dillon, who, in his many responsibilities, oversees Facilities. Further, the information gathered was then discussed with our NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist, who also happens to be the Health and Safety expert in the NYSUT Nassau Regional Office. I am hoping after reading this, that you will feel more comfortable about the issue of ventilation in your classrooms.

The buildings have different ventilation systems, depending upon when the buildings, and specific wings within the buildings were built. However, no matter the age of the building and type of system there, →per SED code←, all buildings and areas have fresh air brought in and out of each classroom.

• Example-Wisdom has large fresh air ceiling vents in the hallways. They are mechanical. They work through the Building Management System, which is electric and automatically works on a schedule (not manually manipulated by the custodians). For the most part, during school hours, this large ceiling vent works as an exhaust. However, when the motor is not running, the vent allows fresh air in from outside.

• Some buildings have Univents…these are in the classrooms alongside the windows. These allow fresh air to enter into the room from the outside. Sometimes in the winter, they are blowing heat, but are still allowing air in from the outside. Sometimes the Univents are not on, and not blowing air, but they have dampers and outside air is still coming in. They have filters inside of them that are changed four times a year.

• Some classrooms have vents at the top of a wall. These vents bring in air from the hallway-the hallway in turn is getting fresh air from vents in the ceiling that vent outside. The inside of these vents have all been vacuumed over the summer by the HVAC team, with additional personnel hired to help our HVAC team. Vacuuming takes out the dust particles from inside the vent. However, that does not mean there is not going to be dirt on the outside of the vent. This was likened by Mr. Dillon to your car engine and the dirt that surrounds the surface, but is not running through the engine.

• Some buildings also have ductless splits.

• All classroom doors also have vents to allow for air circulation.

• All stoppers have been removed from classroom windows, so that windows can remain wide open. There is one building, Abbey Lane, where the windows open from the top in one of the hallways in that building. However, the windows can be fully opened from the top.

MERV Filters/Ratings:
The District purchased MERV filters at between a 7-13 rating. This is higher than what would be considered acceptable. Most MERV filters come at a 2-3 rating, but the District spent additional money for the higher rated filters.

All buildings have filters in their vents. The higher the MERV filter number, the stronger the filter. You cannot put too high of a MERV number filter into a lower capacity vent, as it will blow out the motor. As far as the MERV filters, any unit that can handle the higher rated filter has been upgraded but some older units can only handle the lower MERV rating filters because of age. →These filters are still within SED guidelines←.

It was noted that in all buildings, even those with the most state-of-the-art HVAC systems, the wearing of masks, maintaining social distance from others, and hand washing/sanitizing are the most effective ways to prevent transmission via the droplets. The virus is not transmitted through ventilation systems.

The HVAC maintainers employed by the District, in addition to the District bringing in outside contractors, are making sure that every exhaust fan and motor is repaired and tested by the opening of school. All vents will have been vacuumed out by the start of school. All Air Conditioner filters have been washed in the individual air conditioning units which are found in some classrooms.

There have been inquiries from teachers if they can purchase their own HEPA purifying device. To paraphrase the District’s response: →A non-ozone generating HEPA filter unit← is allowed to be brought in by staff. However, because of the HVAC system we currently have, that brings in fresh air and functions to exhaust air, and with windows allowed to be open, it is not necessary to purchase this, but if it makes staff feel more comfortable, they are welcome to bring it in.

I thought this quote was especially powerful from Mr. Dillon: “We understand there is a lot of anxiety in teachers about returning to the buildings. However, based upon what our facilities team has done, and will continue to do, I would feel extremely comfortable in allowing my wife and children in any of our buildings, any day of the week.”

So, this is the information we have. Again, your Union officers hope this is helpful. We ask that if you have any additional questions about ventilation in your specific building or classroom, that you ❋direct those questions to your building principal❋. They will be most knowledgeable about the building they run, and that you work in.