Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — November 9, 2022

“Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

598.  A conflict in grant funding is slowing school ventilation improvements in CT.

         Q:  Why aren’t more schools improving their ventilation systems?  Isn’t there any funding?

         A:  We at UUS:E easily remember the months spent after the Covid-19 surge had climbed back down from last winter’s surge as we defined and decided to complete the temporary modifications to our Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system.  Many indoor venues including restaurants, schools and churches have ventilation systems that only circulate indoor air around within a room.  Modifications that bring outdoor air into the system, exhausting some of the indoor air to the outside, help to reduce the concentration of Covid-19 virions available to infect new patients.

In a recent Hartford Courant article, reporter Alison Cross explained how a bureaucratic snafu is now preventing schools in Connecticut from beginning to improve their HVAC systems to make them safer, preventing contagious infections among students and staff.  Governor Lamont announced the “Connecticut Public Schools HVAC Indoor Air Quality Grant Program” in September.  This program made $150 million available in public school grants with a deadline to apply for individual project support by December 1.  These grants, authorized by the state legislature, require local matching funds to be allocated.

In the meantime, the U. S. American Rescue Plan Act has also made available federal funding for local communities to improve school ventilation systems.  Several state-wide community organizations including The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education have issued a joint statement advocating for the repeal of the restriction in the state program that prohibits the use of federal funds to support the state funding for these projects.

It has taken a long time for many school officials to recognize the priority value of improving their HVAC systems.  With a late start for many, it has required lengthy discussions to plan for individual school redesign specifications leading to accurate cost estimates.  And for those districts that are ready, requiring local funds for this HVAC program may just not be available.  At the very least, state officials are urged to postpone the deadline allowing for more meaningful planning to implement the program properly.  The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities executive director and CEO Joe DeLong stated his concern, saying that when talks of a grant program for HVAC was starting, there was no consideration of any restrictions for matching funds.  “If you don’t have enough grant applications that come in to utilize all the funds, it could be perceived that the need isn’t as great as people thought,” DeLong said.  “That’s certainly not the case.  We know there’s a tremendous need.”