Funding allows schools to update HVAC systems with COVID concerns

Published: Oct. 2, 2020 at 6:19 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - More money is rolling out the door for schools that need to update or replace their heating and air filtrations systems.

As the winter months quickly approach, and outside options are no longer available for in-person learning, the safety of school buildings is getting added attention.

“It is going to be an increased cause for concern as we get into the colder weather,” said Vermont Education Secretary Dan French Friday. “As we go inside more, as winter comes and temperatures get colder, indoor air quality is one of the elements that we address in our health guidance.”

There are 121 Vermont schools that have already been allocated money for upgrades through an initial $6.5 million set aside from the federal CARES Act. Another $7 million is included in the new state budget. In total, 313 schools have applied for a slice of the pie.

“We know that the funding is likely a small piece of the overall need for modernizing HVAC systems in the state, however, this is a very positive step in the right direction,” said Jody Lesko with Efficiency Vermont, which is administering grants.

Projects are being prioritized by schools that have the biggest issues with air quality. The money can be used to both assess issues and to fix the problems. “The legislation does ask us to look at geographic equity, school size, and grant size to make sure that we are distributing funds equitably,” Lesko said.

Voters in the Danville school district approved a $700,000 dollar project back in August. The district will be getting a grant in the second round of funding.

“I don’t have a publicly available number right now, but the initial estimate is looking good for us. It’s looking like it’s a little more than we expected,” said Danville School Principal David Schilling.

He says the needed improvements are already underway and that they are grateful the community won’t be stuck footing the entire bill. “It makes it a lot better for our taxpayers, it makes it a lot better for our potential endowment funds that we were going to have to drain to make this happen,” Schilling said.

The money needs to be doled out and spent by the end of this year, but the experts say that air quality in schools is an issue that will not be going away, especially for the region’s aging facilities.

Related Story:

Danville community eyeing pricey school ventilation upgrade

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