HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County School leaders are taking more steps to make schools as safe as possible when classes start in a matter of weeks. The district says it will now upgrade and install MERV 13 rated air filters on all its campuses.
The school district says the new filters can help reduce the impacts of COVID-19 within its schools. In a press conference Wednesday, officials explained filters with a MERV 13 rating are able to filter out a higher percentage of particles as well as smaller particles compared to lower-rated filters schools may normally use.
“The health of our students, teachers, and staff have always been the priority since the beginning of this pandemic,” said Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis. “These upgraded filters are in high-demand across the nation, and because our team has been forward-thinking throughout this situation, we are now able to provide filters for each of our schools. I want our families to know we are taking every step possible to create a safe environment as our learners prepare to return to the classroom.”
The superintendent said there's a national shortage of the filters, but the district was still able to get them for their schools. Some units may need modifications to make sure the filters fit properly.
“Right now, we spend close to $800,000 related to filters, and we change those out right before a quarterly effort," said Davis. "There is going to be an additional cost to this. We will probably spend another close to $500,000 that we’ll spend, but at the end of the day, you never put a price on safety.”
The school district says engineers will look at indoor air quality, ventilation, temperature, humidity, mechanical systems and domestic water in addition to the filter installation. Engineers are also doing an assessment of indoor air quality along with CO2 sensor accuracy and exhaust fan operations.
“I am proud that our long-term partnership with the district regarding energy efficiency will now include upgrading filtration systems for each campus. Our goal has always been to help Hillsborough County Public Schools to provide the most comfortable and safe learning environment for students and teachers. By installing MERV 13 filters, this district becomes the state leader in this arena,” said Steve Gossett, Operating Partner at Community Infrastructure Partners.
Superintendent Davis said more than half of their schools will have the filters installed by the start of school on August 24, while the rest will be finished by October 1. Davis also said a decision will be made during a special called school board meeting Thursday morning to determine whether to go to brick and mortar or return to remote learning.
No matter what, he says they want to be ready.
“Regardless if we come back tomorrow, four weeks from now, nine weeks from now, we will be prepared in order to embrace our learners and at the same time protect every one of our employees," he said.