Butler County schools adjust air quality to battle chances of coronavirus spread

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The air quality in schools is getting unprecedented focus from Butler County officials as they make changes to ensure the healthy air flow needed to lessen the chances of an aerosol spread of coronavirus, officials said.

The 10,000-student Hamilton Schools have made changes to its heating, ventilation and air condition systems as the schools prepare for students’ returning to in-person learning next week for the first time since schools were ordered shut in March.

“We’re considering running the HVAC system longer hours based on building comfort, need and practicality. We’ve also increased the outside air settings on the (air) vents,” said Jeff Kilby, executive director of business operations for the district.

Hamilton and other area school districts are fine-tuning their HVAC procedures, adding air filters and limiting the overnight hours when the systems would normally shut down to increase the overall quality of air exchange.

Many of the air enhancements are already done automatically, said Kilby.

“Our HVAC controls monitor CO (carbon dioxide) in the building, which increases with more bodies. As occupancy goes up, our outside air dampers open automatically in response,” he said.

Across the region’s school districts, officials are taking similar actions. Almost all school buildings are of different designs and ages, so the HVAC improvements vary widely among school systems.

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Fairfield school officials have also been changing HVAC systems for its 10,000 students who start in-person learning next week.

“Our operations director is presenting an update to his initial report today . This additional information will reinforce that our students and staff are returning to school in a safe and healthy environment,” said Fairfield Schools’ spokeswoman Gina Gentry-Fletcher.

Butler Tech, which opened classes last week for its four school buildings on three campuses, has increased its air filtration level to that of hospital air quality, said school officials.

“This level of filtration is typically used in hospitals, in-patient and surgery areas. ... They filter bacteria, droplets from coughs and sneezes, smoke and many other things out of the air,” said Huff.