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About 41 percent of public school districts in the United States need to update or replace their Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The report, cited in a September Wall Street Journal Article, found that—although schools spend billions annually on repairs and maintenance—about 36,000 schools nationwide need HVAC updates.

This poses a challenge to schools that are making adjustments to limit the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases. According to the Wall Street Journal, standard classrooms should ideally have their air replaced between four and six times each hour in order to dilute COVID-19 particles.

Schools working with an outdated HVAC system or schools that want to take extra precautions need to implement additional measures to ensure classroom air is clean and not carrying a high viral count from student to student.

Here are a few recommended ways to keep classroom air clean and circulating frequently.

  1. Open doors and windows. This brings in fresh air from outside and reduces stagnant air. Window fans can also increase airflow as can cross-ventilation.
  2. Use air purifiers. High-efficiency portable air purifiers placed in central areas can help filter air in classrooms.
  3. Keep HVAC systems running. Keeping systems running even when students are not in the building can allow more time for air filtration.
  4. Separate students and enforce mask wearing. Placing desks 6 feet apart and requiring masks while indoors doesn’t affect airflow but it can limit the amount of viral particles in the air.
  5. Test and upgrade HVAC systems. Testing and updating HVAC components can ensure air is being filtered properly and is flowing appropriately.

While these measures may not completely eliminate the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, they can certainly mitigate infection risk in schools holding in-person classes this school year.