Chesterfield upgrades air filters as students return to the classroom

Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 7:01 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - As students in Chesterfield continue to return to the classroom, the Chesterfield County Public School system is upgrading air filters in HVAC systems in schools to superior commercial filters.

In a presentation Monday, CCPS communications director Tim Bullis said parents have continued to ask questions about HVAC systems, explaining the upgrades to air filters.

“This slide looks at how are we are upgrading our filters in our HVAC’s. And you see, more than half of our schools have been upgraded to a MERV13 - which is a superior commercial filter - we will have all of our schools updated to a MERV13 by mid November,” said Bullis.

As students in chesterfield continue to return to the classroom, Chesterfield County Public...
As students in chesterfield continue to return to the classroom, Chesterfield County Public Schools is upgrading air filters in all schools to superior commercial filters in HVAC systems.(Chesterfield County Public Schools)

MERV stands for “minimum efficiency reporting value.” According to LakeAir, efficiency is measured by the percentage of particles captured. MERV13s trap particles such as bacteria, smoke and sneezes.

“I previously lived in a neighborhood that was Greenfield Elementary School, where there was the legionella scare in 2019, we heard about cleaning up - you never heard about the ventilation system,” explained CCPS parent David Hylton. “The whole thing about MERV filters is interesting, you don’t hear it as much. Knowing Chesterfield is taking the step to put in better filters makes me feel better sending my kids back to school.”

Hylton has a child in first grade, who has returned to the classroom, and another child in middle school who will be a part of Cohort 4. He says the information about the HVAC systems caught his attention while watching the schools presentation.

“That’s something I would like to see more of and more information about," he said. "There is all this talk about how do you live with the virus? How are we going to live with the virus? And this is something we have to figure out together.”

As of Oct. 20, 42 schools were at MERV-13 and the division expects to obtain 150 of the air purifiers with HEPA filtration by the end of 2020.

On Oct. 9, State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane informed school divisions that Governor Ralph Northam awarded $220.8 million from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to school divisions to help cover costs associated with the the impacts of the pandemic.

The Virginia Department of Education says permissible uses of the funds include school building HVAC cleaning, upgrades and purchases related to COVID-19 mitigation.

VDOE does not recommend particular commercial brands, the department does encourage school divisions to follow CDC and EPA guidance.

The EPA , ASHRAE and CDC recommend “upgrading air filters to the highest compatible with the system and checking the filter fit to minimize filter air bypass.”

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