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September 23, 2021

CCM, education groups call for state funding for school air quality improvements

Photo | Pixabay

A coalition of organizations, including the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and Connecticut Education Association, are calling on the state to boost funding for improvements to HVAC and air quality systems in public schools, a step they say is needed to safeguard the health of students, teachers and other school staff.

In a statement released Thursday, CCM Executive Director Joe DeLong said his and other groups are appealing to the General Assembly for support on the air quality issue after making little headway with the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont. DeLong said he is asking the state to commit funds from the federal American Rescue Plan to HVAC repairs, and pushed for air quality system maintenance and improvements to be included as part of the state Department of Education’s annual bond funding to towns for school construction and repairs.

“As town and city officials remain vigilant on all public health-related issues during the COVID pandemic, the quality of indoor air in public schools is critical to the health and safety of our students,” he said. “It is frankly bizarre that the state recognizes an end of life for a roof or a window, but believes an air quality system never requires updates or replacement.”

The Connecticut Education Association, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Council of Small Towns, AFT Connecticut and CSEA SEIU Local 2001, which represents active and retired public employees, joined with CCM’s request.

Air quality has become an increasingly contentious aspect of the state’s push to reopen public schools after a year of mainly remote learning in many districts. Teachers, staff and parents have complained to administrators and school officials that outdated HVAC and ventilation systems — some of which date to the 1950s and ‘60s and were in poor repair long before the pandemic — cannot be relied upon to filter out harmful pathogens and contaminants.

Several districts opted to undertake repairs or updates in advance of the new academic year, using either their own funds from property taxes or money from the federal CARES Act, which came into effect in 2020.

DeLong said the cost of such projects, which could amount to millions, requires state assistance.

“This dire situation cannot just be left to property taxpayers to shoulder the fiscal burden,” he said.


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