Before the pandemic, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated a stunning 41% of America’s school districts needed to replace or update heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in at least half of their schools — representing 36,000 schools nationwide.

During the coronavirus pandemic, these building systems have become essential in helping to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, yet the focus has been on masks, cleaning, spacing of desks and other steps. School facilities also require attention, and right now, they are not ready to welcome back students, teachers and staff.

Public health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Harvard School of Public Health; the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and others have emphasized the need for bringing in outside air and improving ventilation and filtration to dilute and avoid circulating particles containing the virus.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) also released guidance for schools to reduce the risk of spreading airborne pathogens while meeting indoor air quality standards that support the health and performance of students and staff. Readying these building systems, along with the physical distancing requirements, are among the most challenging issues school leaders face.

An immediate injection of federal funding for school repairs is critical for reopening. School facilities are historically funded through local governments, which are already facing extreme budget challenges. School districts, especially those in disadvantaged areas, need support for these upgrades in order to prioritize health and safety.

Read the full article about immediate funding is needed for schools to reopen by Elizabeth Beardsley, Scott Brown, Mary Filardo, and David Terry at Education Dive.