SCS asks governor for clean air funding in order to reopen schools safely

SCS asks governor for clean air funding in order to reopen schools safely

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray is asking Gov. Bill Lee for funding to improve the air quality in school buildings.

“I know that I’m not alone in longing to have our students, teachers, staff, and administrators back together in our classrooms and school facilities with all due diligence being taken for their health and safety. We continue to rely on science and reevaluate several metrics and strategies daily with a return to in-person learning as our ultimate goal,” Ray said in a letter to the governor last week.

“My team has researched several different options to improve the environment within our school buildings from a health and safety standpoint, specifically the indoor air quality, to minimize the risk of COVID-19 and other airborne virus transmissions through our ventilation systems,” Ray said.

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“The procurement and installation of NPBI units throughout all schools and buildings owned by the district is a total investment estimated to be $26M to complete the project for the entire district– a per pupil investment of roughly $278,” according to the letter.

On March 12, Ray announced SCS classes would be canceled beginning the next day. Ray originally intended schools to reopen March 30, extending spring break by one week.

Currently, there is no set date when students will return to in-person classes. However, in the letter, Ray hinted that students could possibly return during cold and flu season which peaks during the winter.

“With our return to school inevitably aligning to flu and cold season, we must acknowledge that we will be fighting the battle against germs on many fronts. We want to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but also ensure students and teachers are not compromised by more common infections so that they can successfully fight the virus should they become ill as a result of it,” Ray said.

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FOX13 obtained a copy of the letter Dr. Ray sent to Gov. Lee. It reads as follows:

Dear Governor Lee,

As we continue to work through this pandemic and adjust to this new way of life, we feel the profound absence of our learning routines in school buildings. I know that I’m not alone in longing to have our students, teachers, staff, and administrators back together in our classrooms and school facilities with all due diligence being taken for their health and safety. We continue to rely on science and reevaluate several metrics and strategies daily with a return to in-person learning as our ultimate goal.

To that end, my team has researched several different options to improve the environment within our school buildings from a health and safety standpoint, specifically the indoor air quality, to minimize the risk of COVID-19 and other airborne virus transmissions through our ventilation systems. With our return to school inevitably aligning to flu and cold season, we must acknowledge that we will be fighting the battle against germs on many fronts. We want to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but also ensure students and teachers are not compromised by more common infections so that they can successfully fight the virus should they become ill as a result of it.

Because the EPA and CDC have stressed the importance of good air filtration in reducing the spread of the virus, like other districts across the country, we are taking all necessary steps to clean and service our HVAC systems. Through our research and vetting of other air quality solutions we have identified a technology solution that data indicates will put us in the best position to minimize the spread of aerosol based contaminants and disease. The Needle Point Bi-Polar Ionization (NPBI) technology has demonstrated it provides the best defense to eliminate airborne pathogens, kill mold, bacteria, harmful gases, and viruses in the space using existing HVAC systems without producing any byproduct harmful gases and represents the most cost-effective investment to create a learning environment that supports SAFE in-person instruction.

As your administration continues to work diligently to ensure communities and school districts have the resources they need to respond to the unpredictability of COVID-19, I am asking that you consider making funds available to districts to take aggressive action to improve the air quality in their buildings.

The procurement and installation of NPBI units throughout all schools and buildings owned by the district is a total investment estimated to be $26M to complete the project for the entire district– a per pupil investment of roughly $278.

On behalf of the more than 95,000 students, their parents, teachers, and school administrators, we appreciate your full consideration of this request. I look forward to your response and am happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this request.

Respectfully,

Dr. Joris M. Ray

Superintendent Shelby County Schools