In March 2021, the Department of Education introduced the American Rescue Plan (ARP), allocating $122 billion of funding to provide emergency relief grants for K-12 schools in the form of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.
ESSER funds can be used by schools to cover a wide range of expenses to help prevent, prepare for, and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. More specifically, these funds are available to improve the air quality in schools to help create healthier and safer environments for students, teachers and staff.
Improving indoor air quality (IAQ) is a top priority for schools across the country as they continue their efforts to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections among students, teachers and staff. However, it is important to note that the benefits of good indoor air quality extend far beyond that. This article aims to help school administrators understand what the ESSER Fund is, what it can be used for, and how it can help improve indoor air quality and create a healthier school environment.
How Classroom Air Quality Affects Learning
Air quality isn’t just important for physical health. Growing evidence suggests that exposure to air pollution can negatively affect children’s neurodevelopment. Good indoor air quality, on the other hand, not only promotes a healthier learning environment at schools but also helps reduce absenteeism, improve test scores and increase student and staff productivity.
Unfortunately, many schools in the US have inadequate HVAC systems. According to a 2020 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported 41% of districts nationwide needed to update or replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in at least half of their schools, representing about 36,000 public schools (grades K-12) nationwide.
ESSER Funding for Healthier Learning Environments
The ESSER Fund provides emergency financial assistance to elementary and secondary schools to help address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Adequate ventilation and air purification are key prevention strategies for helping to mitigate the spread of airborne infections, such as Covid-19. Improving indoor air quality can reduce the spread of airborne pathogens and help reduce allergens, dust particles and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in schools to help create healthier environments for students, educators and staff.
What Can ESSER Funds Be Used For?
ESSER funds can be used to improve indoor air quality for schools in many ways, including, but not limited to:
- Inspection, testing and maintenance of current ventilation systems and approaches.
- Purchasing portable air purification units.
- Purchasing MERV-13 (or higher) filters for your HVAC system and ACs.
- Servicing or upgrading HVAC systems consistent with industry standards.
Other spending that supports inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement and upgrade of projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical HVAC systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair.
For additional information about the ESSER Funds and how they may be used, take a look at the ESSER Funds FAQs from the U.S. Department of Education.
Read the full version of this article over on the Delos website.