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5 ways to boost peace of mind about in-person learning

July 19, 2021

learning

School systems across the country displayed superhuman creativity and resolve to make distance learning possible during the pandemic. Despite the herculean effort, 97% of educators believe students have suffered at least some learning disruption, with more than half believing that loss was significant1. In-person learning remains the most productive K12 educational environment.

Before the pandemic, leading school administrators understood the upkeep and maintenance of their school’s physical environments were a prerequisite to cultivating a productive educational environment. They sought to address issues such as:

  • Absenteeism caused by the transmission of viruses
  • Distraction caused by surrounding noise pollution
  • Interference of children's natural learning biorhythms by things like overhead lights

Well-being issues like these will gain greater attention in a post-COVID19 world. Going forward, the viability of schools will depend just as much on the quality of their indoor environments as their curriculum, staff, and facilities. To help students and families feel good about in-person learning, school administrators must find ways to demonstrate and communicate what they're doing to cultivate an optimal indoor environment. Here are five such ways.

1. Make Visible Your School's Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

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It's easy to tell when the roof is leaking or the carpet is worn. The air we breathe, however, isn't as apparent. It's only human to fear what you can't see, and unseen airborne particulates are peace-robbers for parents.

An HVAC system can play a major role when it comes to mitigating such threats. Assessing the performance and condition of your school's HVAC system is an essential first step to instilling confidence in the quality of your indoor air. A certified IAQ expert can methodically evaluate how well your school building systems are:

  • Diluting indoor air with fresh outdoor air
  • Exhausting stale air from places like kitchens, labs, and bathrooms
  • Filtering the air of micro-organisms such as mold, certain viruses, and bacteria
  • Controlling humidity levels to prevent microbial growth

Through remote monitoring, indoor air quality assessments can be conducted remotely. Often, an assessment reveals fine-tuning settings or simple maintenance can significantly improve air quality.

Send home a note with the kids or email parents highlighting your school's assessment findings and the actions taken to optimize indoor air quality. They will breathe a lot easier knowing you are on top of it.

2. Earn Recognition, Endorsements, or Certificates

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Assessments prescribe the actions necessary to achieve recognized best standards and practices. Equipment manufacturers, industry associations, and health organizations invest in research to determine effective indoor environmental quality standards. Based on the action taken, many of these organizations offer recognition, awards, certificates, or endorsements that you can share with your community to increase their comfort level.

3. Be an Early Adopter

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Being an early adopter of educational technology is often considered a point of pride for a school system. In a post-pandemic world, looking to emerging technologies to address pressing IEQ issues means working with a trusted advisor to help guide you to the choices that are right for your school's environments.

For example, leaders at the Adams 14 School District outside of Denver, CO, took an innovative approach to improve the indoor air quality to get kids back into all of their schools. After working with a trusted advisor in the indoor air quality field and assessing the conditions of their buildings, Adams 14 installed 427 free-standing SynexisⓇ Sphere units in classrooms and common areas throughout district buildings.

Synexis is a new and emerging technology that takes naturally occurring oxygen and humidity in the air to create a vaporized dry hydrogen peroxide that disperses within acceptable safety thresholds throughout a room to continually and significantly reduce the presence of microbes in the air and on surfaces. Occupant-friendly and low-maintenance, the technology effectively improved indoor air quality across the district without negatively affecting energy efficiency and operating costs. To make it happen, Adams 14 swiftly secured public funding through a Safe Schools Reopening Grant and leveraged the purchasing power of public sector procurer OmniaⓇ Partners.

4.  Turn Your School Into a STEM Learning Lab

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Within every school building exists a real-world STEM laboratory. Building systems such as HVAC, fire protection, lighting—and the building automation systems that control them—provide real-world applications for subjects like physics, chemistry, earth science, and software engineering.

Through partnership with non-profit National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), high school students can get certifications in emerging skill areas like data analytics — as well as building automation systems and residential HVAC. These valuable certifications can prepare students for technical careers in the HVAC industry and a wide range of other fields by providing foundational knowledge of valuable skills that can benefit them throughout their careers.

A number of equipment manufacturers and related trade associations offer STEM courses and lesson plans featuring various building systems. Integrating your school's building systems into your K-12 curriculum provides a unique learning opportunity with practical, hands-on applications.

5. Make Your Facilities Team Famous

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Shining the spotlight on your facilities team is a fun way to let your community know the health of your school building is important to you. Take advantage of your school's social media, bulletin boards, or events to profile or recognize these unsung heroes from custodians to maintenance staff to facility leaders. Share pictures of the team in action maintaining equipment and installing new systems. Encourage your facility director to highlight indoor air quality initiatives or projects in progress.

Acting on one or more of these helpful hints will help ease the minds and hearts of your school community. But don’t think you have to do it all on your own. Expert resources are available to provide you with any needed advice, insight, or help.

 

1 Horace Mann Educators Corporation survey of 941 U.S. educators, including public school teachers, administrators, and support personnel, conducted in Feb. and Mar. 2021.

Trane has a non-controlling minority financial interest in Synexis LLC

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