Upshur Schools has purchased 10 air scrubbers to facilitate improved ventilation ahead of Sept. 8 start date

BUCKHANNON – One of the main areas of discussion during Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting centered around the question of adequate ventilation in Upshur County Schools for the upcoming academic school year, which begins for students Sept. 8.

During the last BOE meeting, held on Tuesday, Aug. 11 at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School, Facilities Director Tim Derico spoke briefly about the ventilation, saying that six county schools had adequate ventilation, while three have very little outside area all of the time.

At that time, Derico also said turning up the ventilation systems could lead to decreased efficiency and additional costs. He said he would need to check with the manufacturers to assure that it would not be too much pressure on the equipment. Derico promised to report back to the BOE at the Tuesday, Aug. 25 meeting.

“We are dictated by the type of units they have existing,” Derico said during the Aug. 11 BOE meeting. “Older model air conditioning and heating systems were not equipped to bring in outside air. There are different scenarios in each facility.”

During Tuesday’s BOE meeting Derico reminded everyone that during the last BOE meeting, they spoke about the MERV Ratings of the schools in Upshur County. The MERV Rating is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value and is a measurement scale to report the effectiveness of air filters. The scale runs from 1 to 16, with one being the lowest and 16 the highest.

Systems with rating of 13 to 16 are used in hospitals where airborne contaminates must be almost completely eliminated.

Derico said the schools are currently operating at an 8.

“Our manufacturers for the units at the five schools that have 100 percent outside air will allow us to go to a MERV 10. A MERV 10 rating is as high as we can go without voiding the warranty on the equipment,” Derico reported. “That equipment is still under warranty, and it would be very costly for us to incur those repair costs.

“The way they are operating, we are bringing in more fresh air into the building,” he added. “The obstacles are the schools that have issues with outside air.”

Derico then handed out paperwork to BOE members about air scrubbers.

“What it will do is go into the buildings where we have issues with outside air,” Derico said. “We have purchased 10 of the units, and we can put them in hallways, and they can work the whole day through. They are very simple – we roll them in and let them go to work. They should arrive at the end of this week or the beginning of next week and will be here before school starts.”

Another update to the filtration system in schools Derico spoke about was having the filters sprayed with an antimicrobial coating. He said the folks who come in and clean the filters once a month offered to spray the filters; however, Derico said once he looked into the process, he learned that the Upshur County Schools Maintenance Department could easily do it on their own each month with the same substance – and using the maintenance department to do this process would be much more cost-effective for Upshur County Schools.

BOE vice president Katie Loudin asked what the MERV rating would be with the air scrubbers and Derico said it would be MERV 12.

Tim Liggett, who is the Upshur County Schools consultant for HVAC, attended Tuesday’s meeting and was available for questions. He said one thing that could be added in addition is ultraviolet light.

Derico said ultraviolet light is something that could be explored as well.

“The scrubbers could use ultraviolet light as well,” Derico said.

BOE President Tammy Samples asked if there is room in the budget for these additions. Derico said he talked to Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus, Superintendent of Upshur County Schools, as well as Treasurer Jeff Perkins, and determined the scrubbers were a need.

“I believe we are using some of the pandemic funding to purchase these items,” Derico said. “We have ordered five larger scrubbers and five smaller scrubbers, which will be used at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, Washington District Elementary School and the older sections of Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.”

BOE member Pat Long, who attended Tuesday’s meeting online, sent a message asking about the level of filtration. Long questioned that the filtration would only be 0.03 instead of filtering down to 0.01.
Derico deferred the question to Liggett who said they can filter down to 0.01 by going to a MERV 13 filter or by using ultraviolet light.

“We can get there by using different filters and adding the ultraviolet light,” Liggett said. “The ultraviolet lights would be about $2,500 and the filter change would be minimal cost adding maybe a few dollars per filter.”

Liggett said he already shared the information regarding the higher rated filters for any upcoming orders.

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