Air quality improvements needed in SCS buildings as students return to in-person learning

WATCH: Air quality improvements needed in SCS buildings as students return to in-person learning

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — County and school leaders are working to prepare Shelby County School buildings in January. It will come with a costly bill to make sure students are safe.

A majority of Shelby County school buildings are between 30 and 50 years old and are in need of repair.

As school leaders prepare to potentially send students back to school buildings in January, improving air quality in the more than 130 school buildings is a top priority.

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According to Chalkbeat, Shelby County Schools already has a backlog of about $500 million in maintenance costs, including many HVAC systems.

Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner says county leaders are already exploring options that may be used for schools and county buildings.

“We have to look at the air quality and infrastructure of our old schools to make sure that we can keep the young people safe if we are going back to school in person,” Turner said.

Earlier this month, SCS Superintendent Joris Ray sent a letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee asking the state to for 26 million dollars for air purifiers for school buildings.

Turner told FOX13 in all six of the years he’s served as a commissioner he’s seen the commission’s budget for SCS increase.

“In order to do this it will be a lot of money because they will have to implement the system in all of our schools,” Turner said.

According to school leaders, more than 3,000 repairs on ventilation systems have been made in school buildings.

Turner said he’s positive more repairs are still in the works to get buildings ready for the return of students.

“When you’re talking about the safety of our children this may be something that we have to allocate extra dollars for it,” Turner said.

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