Last night’s School Committee meeting provided us with an update on the evaluation and remediation work on the HVAC systems in all of the school buildings in preparation for the return of students to in-person learning.

Ben Cenedalla from Nexus Consulting joined the meeting to provide a summary of the report his company has compiled and to answer Committee members' questions. The report and discussion begin around the 31:30 mark in the meeting.

My understanding of this phase of the evaluation and remediation work is that it has been focused on the rooms and areas of the school buildings that would be used for Phase 2 of the GPS re-opening plan, which is the return of high-needs learners to some form of in-person learning.

The highlights of the report:

  1. Nearly all of the HVAC equipment evaluated was found to be in good repair and running properly and to spec. The only problems found were some exhaust fans, all of which have been repaired except for a single exhaust fan at Newton School.
  2. For most of the schools, the HVAC equipment does not support the addition of more robust filters (HEPA, etc.), but is able to supply plenty of outside air. However, for most of these systems, the amount of outside air that can be brought in will drop as the outside temperature gets colder.
  3. The GHS HVAC system can supply lots of outside air even in cold weather.

Given all of that, the district’s position is that the current state of the schools' HVAC systems plus the strategy as pulling in as much outside air as temperature permits while exhausting indoor air constitutes “taking all reasonable precautions” to prevent infections among students returning to the buildings.

Based upon those determinations, the School Committee unanimously moved last night to move forward with the previously agreed upon move to Phase 2 of the re-opening plan starting November 9. That previous motion at their last meeting had been dependent upon this HVAC report, and now feeds into the ongoing negotiation process with the teachers' union.

More on that process in another post.