We need better Ventilation and Air Quality in Stamford Schools to keep our community safe!

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I have been closely following the recent conversations and issues regarding Stamford schools. The school administration and teaching staff has done an outstanding job with the resources that they have been provided, but I do not believe they are being provided with the support and funding from our city government/superintendent to ensure a safe environment for our children and themselves. 

As a parent, I am forced to rely on city officials who, in my opinion, are not adhering to science and facts about COVID-19 transmission and are making rash, uninformed decisions about school ventilation systems and opening schools that weren’t fit to open (due to poor air quality) prior to the pandemic.

I am not a scientist, engineer, or infectious disease expert – but I can read and the science is pretty straight forward. 

Covid-19 is an airborne disease.  Essentially that means that spending extra time wiping down the school with bleach will essentially do very little to stop the transmission of the virus during the school day or prevent an outbreak when school is open.  Janitors are critical to the disinfecting process, and we need them to clean all the surfaces each night.  However, as soon as the doors open in the morning and one infected student or teacher coughs or sneezes, it is all for not - the air is now potentially contaminated as well as any surface that comes in contact with the virus. Admittedly, it’s a complex problem. 
 
There is obviously no fool-proof answers or guarantees, however there is science and common sense.  If it is a disease with primarily airborne transmission, we need to implement a multi-faceted approach that primarily focuses on cleaning the air. 

Most importantly, we need air filtration systems that perform per the CDC guidelines….that actually DISINFECT the air that is in each classroom and create at least 10 air changes per hour (every 6 minutes).  In addition, the filters used should be duplicative and cover all bacteria and virus from bigger air particles to those less than .01 micron! We need the school to cover all its bases for capturing all types of bacteria, virus, mold, etc and cleaning the air in the room.  That would certainly solve all the issues – the ones that were already confirmed prior to COVID and the current ones due to the pandemic. 

Years ago many of our city school facilities were outed for poor and unacceptable ventilation systems – nothing was done.

Last year, many of our school facilities were again called out for mold – there was tremendous public pressure -  and finally wheels were turning and plans were being discussed to make fixes and provide our school communities with safe, temporary accommodations until the ventilation systems and mold could be remediated…yet nothing was done. (except for Westover elementary where 24 Million was spent and the school is still reporting mold and ventilation issues!) https://www.ctinsider.com/local/stamfordadvocate/article/Letter-Mold-found-at-newly-renovated-Westover-15514066.php

Now, we are in the midst of an airborne pandemic and the City has decided that the schools ventilation systems just needed to be updated to their original state…so the HVAC systems were “upgraded” to what they were originally capable to do in 1960!  How is it possible that money was thrown at outdated, antiquated HVAC systems that in no way will be able to protect our school communities from COVID transmission? In fact, it was stated at a facilities meeting last week that some of these school's filtration were now upgraded and using Merv8 filters.  “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended since early May that office buildings and other indoor spaces upgrade their air filters to MERV-13, based on guidance from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The MERV filtration rating system measures a filter's ability to remove small particulates from the air: The higher the rating number, the smaller the particles a filter can catch. MERV-8 filters are currently in wide general use but are not considered effective in removing the coronavirus from filtered air.” https://fortune.com/2020/07/21/air-filters-coronavirus-kill-viruses-hvac-supply-covid-19-heating-air-conditioning-indoor-spaces-merv-13-us-economy/

At Westhill high School, the bathrooms in the 100s and 200s buildings have been closed since school opened as there were “ventilation issues” – presumably a fan was not working…however the ventilation system with the broken fan that closed all these bathrooms is responsible for ventilating the air in many interior classrooms that remained open. 

What does all this mean - it means our city government officials have knowingly exposed our children, teachers, and administrators and community to potentially contaminated air! 

This is all absolutely unacceptable. 

NYC public schools have older buildings and for many of the ones where their HVAC cannot be updated to appropriate filtering to combat COVID transmission, they are purchasing additional free-standing Air-scrubbers….Stamford received a significant amount of money through the CARES act – please do not tell me it was all used up on ineffective HVAC “upgrades?”  

Again, I do not profess to be an engineer or expert in air filtration, but there is plenty of information out there at our fingertips regarding what could be implemented to clean the air per the CDC guidelines….

For example – air scrubbing machines that have:
1 – Anti-microbial prefilter – this removes larger air particles (similar to a kitchen strainer)
2 – UVC light chamber (medical grade – similar to what is used in an OR) – this light is fully contained in the machine and never escapes out – air is filtered through and becomes rapidly disinfected
3 – True HEPA filter – filters any Micron over .3 (mainly bacteria as Covid-19 virus is about .1 micron)
4 – Active Carbon Filter – Captures nanoparticles - .01 micron and smaller according to NASA

I acknowledge all the efforts of our school administrators and teachers and believe their efforts to be nothing short of extraordinary.  I am looking to secure additional  SUPPORT, FUNDING, and PROVISIONS for our schools to make them CDC compliant and safe for our community.  I know there are many options out there, and I am open to any of them as long as they safely and effectively clean the air and surfaces in the schools – I simply believe as of today – the gameplan is not multi-faced nor effective against the transmission of COVID-19.  As of this evening, Stamford has announced positive cases in 4 of their schools...The timing is critical – we need to provide a safe space for our community NOW.

Please sign this position requesting that our city officials and superintendent of schools create an emergency facilities gameplan that can be immediately implemented and actually provides a safe environment for our teachers, students, administrators, and families!!!!