Reopening School Buildings After a COVID-19 Shutdown

December 10, 2020
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School buildings can face closures throughout the school year as responsible officials attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. The following is meant to help school officials prepare their building HVAC systems to reopen after an extended closure.

Step 1: Get Building Ready for Students to Return

  • Confirm that all scheduled maintenance has been performed.
  • Inspect spaces to identify any potential concerns for water leaks or mold growth.
  • Verify that all HVAC equipment and control systems are completely operational and functioning properly. Don’t overlook exhaust fans, it is critical that all exhaust fans are working properly in order for the school’s ventilation systems to be effective.
  • Consider eliminating the use of portable box fans that may recirculate infectious aerosols within the space. If fans are removed, take steps to prevent heat hazards.
  • Inspect rotary energy recovery wheels and eliminate air leakage from the exhaust side to the supply side to reduce the potential for cross contamination.
  • Confirm filters are installed correctly and are clean.
  • Ensure supply chain for critical items, such as filters.

Step 2: Check Your Building Automation Systems

  • Check for alarms, overridden points, or locked points.
  • Determine why any points or systems are in alarm, have been overridden, or locked at a specific setting.
  • Release or remove the overrides or locked points, where appropriate.
  • Return the building to normal operating schedules.
  • Verify the accuracy and calibration of key sensors, such as temperature, relative humidity, building pressure, etc.
  • Consider an update to the programming that would incorporate HVAC strategies to reduce infectious disease transmission prior to future events. Automate these control sequence operations such that an “Epidemic Mode” command can be manually selected by the operator.
  • If higher MERV filters have been installed in air handling units, consider adding filter differential pressure sensors to more accurately monitor filter loading and for scheduling filter change-outs.

Step 3: Ensure Indoor Air Quality is Acceptable for Students to Return

  • Perform 100% outdoor air building flush for 4 hours.
  • Operate building HVAC systems under normal schedules for a minimum of one week prior to the students returning. This may be completed at the same time as teachers start returning to the building.
  • Monitor building conditions to ensure that acceptable space temperature and humidity levels are not exceeded.
  • Verify the proper operation of all systems.

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Information and recommendations regarding COVID-19 are continually evolving, as are the science, technology, and procedures for combating the virus. Performance Services will take reasonable efforts to make recommendations consistent with accepted industry, scientific and/or governmental standards in place at the time of such recommendations. However, Performance Services disclaims any and all liability with respect to COVID-19, including, but not limited to, damages, costs and/or expenses related to any exposure to, contraction and/or spread of the virus.

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