Classrooms & COVID-19: Managing Indoor Air Quality (Part Two)

By now, students and teachers alike are settling into their new routines amidst “unprecedented times” as they follow new rules, adhere to regular screenings, and even adjust to alternative classroom setups to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus.

But masks and temperature checks aside, not all teachers or school administrators may know the best ways to tackle their indoor air quality. Thus, here are some actionable steps that educators may be able to take in their classrooms as the fall semester carries on:

Step One: Open the Windows

In the first installment of our Classrooms & COVID-19 blog series, we affirmed that increasing the rate of air changes within a building — or increasing the rate of ventilation — may help to dissipate particles faster.

And one of the easiest ways to achieve this in a classroom setting, wherein the teacher may not have much control over the building’s overall air quality, is to simply open the windows.

“Anything that you can do in order to dilute the concentration of the virus is a good thing,” according to Professor of Engineering, Cliff Davidson with Syracuse University. “Any kind of outdoor air is likely to dilute the coronavirus.”

But, he explains, while opening one window is good, opening multiple windows on different sides of the room (or even a door) is even better, as this increases crossflow ventilation throughout the room and disperses greater volumes of particles at a time.

Step Two: Attend to the HVAC

Another commonly relied upon resource for reducing airborne pollution or viral spread is that of a building’s existing HVAC system. But as no two schools will necessarily have the same HVAC system, the first question for any teacher to ask is, “What kind of system do I have in my classroom?”

Today, most new buildings feature what is known as a “forced air” HVAC system, which is one that primarily relies on vents and air ducts to send temperature-controlled air throughout a building.

But, according to Air Innovations President and CEO Mike Wetzel, forced air systems have a relatively coarse filtration standard, and the best approach in these instances is for educators to simply increase the HVAC’s filtration setting up to the highest level the system can tolerate.

 “We can’t just stick a HEPA filter in an existing system,” he explains. “It will never push the air through it and you’ll create other issues because you reduce airflow so much.”

Step Three: Invest in Air Purifiers and Humidifiers

While there may not be many modifications one can make to their classroom’s HVAC system during COVID-19, there are additional tools and resources that can be placed within a classroom to aid their efforts.

For example, viral particles thrive in dry environments. But as forced air systems do not have a humidification feature, adding a humidifier to a classroom may help mitigate coronavirus spread among students.

Additionally, if a teacher does not have the ability to open their windows for one reason or another, they can always turn to portable air purifiers as a classroom alternative, particularly as they are apt to catch the larger particles that viruses cling to in order to travel through the air. 

That being said, as classrooms do not have uniform concentrations of air particles throughout a room, teachers should place the purifiers near students who are at higher risk for contracting and/or spreading the virus.

School administrators would be wise to understand what, exactly, the overall volume of biological particulate matter is throughout their school. This way, officials can actually make the informed decisions of air quality management and, most importantly, how to effectively use filters in regards to duration, placement in the classroom, and spot filtration strategy — and that’s where the InstaScope comes in.

The InstaScope is capable of instantaneously measuring the number of airborne particles in a given space, providing the information needed to best utilize filters and air purifiers so that known exposure risks are reduced. The results are instant, cloud-based, can compare classrooms, and provide the basis needed to address each classroom individually.

To learn more about the InstaScope and how it can help you create safer learning environments, contact DetectionTek today by calling 720-410-7030 or emailing!

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