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HCPSS to Acquire 4,600 HEPA Filters to Further Enhance Classroom Air Quality

September 3rd, 2021

During the September 2, 2021, Board of Education meeting, Howard County Public Schools Superintendent Michael J. Martirano announced his intention to make an emergency purchase of 4,600 HEPA filter units to be installed in all classrooms in every HCPSS school. Board members endorsed the emergency acquisition, which will provide an additional layer to the multiple mitigation efforts HCPSS already has in place to ensure a healthy in-person school learning environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The units are expected to be delivered to all classrooms by the end of September. Installation will begin immediately upon receipt, starting with elementary school classrooms and congregant spaces.

“Our commitment to a safe reopening has been driven by a singular goal – to return to normalized instruction and do everything possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 so that our students can continue receiving in-person instruction and supports,” said Martirano. “Earlier this week, I met with industry experts in ventilation and air quality who affirmed that the measures we have already taken demonstrate a strong commitment to air quality and proper ventilation. These experts recommended the use of HEPA filters in all of our classrooms to provide an additional layer of protection and we will be moving forward with this recommendation. I appreciate the support of our Board in supporting this extra precaution to safeguard the well-being of our students and staff.”

HVAC systems serving school system buildings provide between 5 and 8 equivalent outdoor air changes per hour for a typical 800 square foot classroom with a 10 foot ceiling height. With the addition of one 400 cubic feet per minute HEPA fan/filtration unit, the equivalent outdoor air changes per hour for a typical classroom will increase to between 8 and 11 equivalent outdoor air changes per hour.

Many recommendations by the Maryland Department of Health; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and other agencies revolve around proper ventilation and air quality. At the onset of the pandemic, HCPSS installed MERV-13 filters in all buildings wherever possible, and have continued to perform maintenance to ensure all HVAC units operate at peak efficiency.

“The health and well-being of our students and staff is always the highest priority of our school system,” said Board Chair Chao Wu. “I am pleased that we are able to implement this additional measure to maximize air quality in all of our classrooms and schools. Thank you to the Superintendent and staff for their due diligence in layering this additional mitigation strategy.”

“I would like to thank the subject matter experts in the community who partnered with us. We committed to lead with evidence and science-based solutions, and with the addition of HEPA filters in our classrooms we are doing just that,” said Board Vice Chair Jennifer Mallo. “I’m proud to have worked on a team dedicated to positive health outcomes for all of our students.”

All costs for purchase and installation of the units, which total approximately $3 million, are eligible under federal ESSER 3 funding grants.