The desire to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 as well as provide effective teaching to public school children has proved difficult over the course of the pandemic. In many areas, local passions have polarized the issue of safe schooling and left many local governments paralyzed, leading them to give up on the issue, and either abandon anti-Covid measures as politically infeasible or minimally effective.
However, if a state or local government is looking to effectively protect school children while also avoiding the polarization of the more controversial Covid polices, there is a solution: improving ventilation and filtration. A bit mundane, yes, but there is a relatively large and increasing body of research that suggests that improving the air quality of a school can be a major tool in – among a slew of other health benefits- decreasing the spread of Covid-19.
One study in Geogia during the pandemic found a 48% decrease in covid spread in schools that used improved ventilation strategies. Being exposed to air pollution for lengthy amounts of time can also heighten the risk posed by the Covid-19 virus itself, meaning poor ventilation in schools can be dangerous for staff and increase the school’s liability.
And beyond Covid-19, better air quality in schools is linked to a number of beneficial effects, such as higher test scores and a decrease in the spread of other common illnesses like the common cold, flu, and respiratory syncytial viruses. In addition, growing evidence suggests that higher rates of air pollution is linked to the mental health crisis, and thus better ventilation in schools could plausibly improve mental health of kids and teens.
Recognizing the need, Congress has allocated more than $120 billion through the American Rescue Plan Act that can be used by schools to upgrade their ventilation systems and improve air quality.
As such, upgrading a school’s air quality system will not only provide local authorities with an effective and non-polarized way to fight the spread of Covid –19, but will also act as a low-cost investment that will reap health and academic benefits for decades to come.