Air quality upgrades coming to schools across Connecticut
COVID taught parents how critical air quality is in schools. Now, major upgrades are coming for ventilation and new air conditioners – thanks to $150 million in state and federal funding released on Wednesday.
School's in for summer -- at least the last few weeks of it. And some classrooms can get downright hot.
"Teaching in a classroom that is frequently 95 degrees is incredibly challenging," said Kate Dias, president of the Connecticut Education Association. "Watching your children melt is really difficult to get them inspired."
Wednesday morning, state leaders announced the launch of the HVAC Indoor Air Quality Grant program. That's on top of $165 million schools already received from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
Schools across the state can apply for funds.
According to the state, examples of eligible projects include:
• Replacing, upgrading or repairing boilers and other heating and ventilation components
• Replacing controls and technology systems related to HVAC operations
• Installing or upgrading air conditioning or ventilation systems
• Other similar work approved by the commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services
Older schools will get priority.
"It can be anything from air filters to rooftop units, you name it," said Noel Petra, the director of Connecticut's Office of School Construction Grants and Review. "It could be any part of the system."
It's not just for comfort, but also for COVID. Many schools lack proper ventilation, a problem exposed during the pandemic's early days.
"Every parent was saying, 'Tell me about the ventilation in my schools. Can I get back to my schools safely?'" said Gov. Ned Lamont.
The money is a combination of state bond money and federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act. OSCGR is doling out the money. A federal grand jury is investigating whether the office's former director, Kosta Diamantis, steered contracts to his friends.
The Lamont administration insisted this program will be by the book.
"It can be an effective tool for our schools, and also a program with integrity for our taxpayers," said Michelle Gilman, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, which oversees OSCGR.
DAS is also auditing the School Construction Grants office. Gilman initially said the review would be finished by April, but CT Mirror reports it may now be delayed until June 2023.