Toni Jones briefly touched on air quality in Friday’s recap email to parents. Her response, in short, was flawed. From incorrectly interchanging HVAC systems and air purification systems to failing to address the effects of poor air quality on students too young to be vaccinated, her oversights are disappointing. A few points to consider:
Jones said many teachers have also expressed concerns regarding air quality in school buildings, however she pointed out the district’s newest buildings with automated HVAC systems have fresh air return built into them.
This is great for the new buildings and a partial solution. However, it often requires significant energy use as the ventilation system should be continually run throughout the day when addressing particle dissipation. The reality of a aerosolized virus born from respiratory activities is that we are far more likely to transmit from person to person within a room so it is important to also deliver localized air purification to supplement the building ventilation system, reduce ventilation hotspots that may be created, and reduce particle deposition on surfaces. The Intellipure Compact devices have been proven to dramatically reduce particle concentrations by comparison to ventilation systems alone, up to 5x reduction as shown in a simulated classroom environment.
Though she acknowledged that “each building is different,” Jones said a “full flush” will be conducted at each building approximately two hours before school starts and one hour after school ends.
This is beneficial as it brings fresh air into the space, but this doesn’t have any benefit to the manner in which the COVID virus usually transmits, aka person to person. Particles are born from respiratory activities, talking, breathing, singing, yelling, coughing, etc. and these droplets which emit from respiration are what carry SARS-CoV-2 particles (and other pathogens), droplets which may remain airborne for long periods of time, travel long distances while remaining viable. The focus should be on reducing particles in the air near students while the students are there. Particle dissipation is critical to reducing the likelihood of transmission, and air purifiers can serve a critical function to reduce particle concentrations in an indoor room by working when students are in those spaces together.
“We have set our buildings to bring in more air flow,” Jones said. “[Greenwich High School], our largest building, had a new $1,052,000 project installation of the cooling tower project completed this past month. For those buildings with window units, the fresh air is pulled through the window unit and hits the chiller in the unit and passes through a filter.”
She also noted the state Department of Health advises that free-standing fans should not be used in classrooms, as they blow particles around and can decrease the air quality in those rooms. The district had looked into using box fans, filtered light and an array of other products, however they were not recommended for the same reason, Jones said. (It is worth noting that the CDC has overruled this.)
It is great that outdoor air is brought in through a window unit through a filter. This will help dissipate large particles but it will not reduce fine particles which have a greater propensity to penetrate lung cells and cause chronic conditions in humans. The Intellipure devices not only support the removal of aerosolized particles born from respiration, they are also very efficient at reducing fine particles which enter the space from outside, helping support healthier immune systems for occupants indoors.
Not only do the purifiers serve to reduce particle concentration, they also move air within the classroom to limit the presence of ventilation hotspots, areas where particles can build due to the ventilation dynamics of an indoor space.
In addition to CDC recommending portable air filters in a report published on July 9th 2021, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health also advocates utilizing portable air cleaners in classrooms without sufficient mechanical systems.
“Many of these products move the air around your room,” Jones said. “If there are any particles in the room, we want those particles to fall and hit the ground, not stay active in your classrooms. Each district has taken a different approach, and some districts (not GPS) have classrooms without any air conditioning at all. We care about your safety.”
Unfortunately particles do not behave this way in a real world environment. Smaller particles, those which range from 0.1 micron to 2.5 micron have the ability to remain airborne and travel long distances. These are the particles we are most concerned with as larger particles which deposit on surfaces then become a fomite transmission issue (which is still a serious consideration to the statement made). The air purifiers have not only been proven to reduce particle presence in the air, but also have shown significant benefit to reducing particle deposition on surfaces proving that particles do not simply fall to the surfaces as we would like them to.
It is incredibly important to keep air moving within a room to ensure particle buildup does not occur and hotspots are limited as much as possible. If GPS is considering ionization devices which make claims to agglomerate particles and make them stick to surfaces more rapidly, real world efficiency testing should be referenced, as well as the byproduct concerns that these devices deliver. It should also be noted that in order for ions to spread throughout a room and have any potential effect, you must utilize high ventilation rates. Ions are dependent on air flow to continually spread throughout a room, so the statement to not move air around a room is counterintuitive to particle concentration reduction with the use of air purifiers as well as the use of an ionization device. More info here:
While staff members engage in professional learning Thursday and Friday, Jones and other administrators will use those two days to check all the buildings again. Jones also asked that teachers seek help from administrators, facilities staff or colleagues if “something isn’t quite the way you thought it would be” upon returning to classrooms Monday.
“We will be so much stronger together if we treat each other with respect and model the very behavior we want our young people to see,” Jones said. “I believe that we have the best staff in the country, and we can do this together.”
We agree completely on being respectful and we respect the GPS staff immensely. We also believe there should be constructive discourse around this topic and parents should be provided with complete transparency around any technology that will be impacting the air quality in our districts schools.
Since 2019, Toni Jones has talked about doing something about air quality. If government funds aren’t being used to cover exactly what she has outlined in the past, then where are they going? We believe we can all agree that cleaner air means improved classroom conditions and healthier environments for students and teachers—throughout COVID and for generations to come.