Air Quality in CPS Logo
  • HVAC System Summary

    Over the last several months, the district has been working to identify commercial-grade equipment that could help with air quality in our schools. Columbia Public Schools is committed to maintaining our HVAC systems. We proactively perform preventive maintenance checks per the manufacturer's recommendations for each individual system, conduct filter changes in more than 6,000 filter applications and contract with high-quality contractors for work beyond internal resources. 

    The school district uses industrial HVAC systems in its buildings. The types of systems depend on building needs. Each HVAC system is designed to meet the load requirements for square footage and the maximum population of the facility. Each design, created by an engineer, meets the regulated and mandated requirements of The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHREA). System types include ground source, four-pipe systems such as boilers and cooling towers, heat pumps, and residential large and small split systems.

    The district primarily uses MERV 8 filters in its HVAC systems. MERV means Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value and is a set of filter efficiency ratings determined by ASHREA. MERV 8 filters have 90 percent efficiency on particles that are 3 to 10 micrometers in size catching small particles, such as mold spores, hair spray, dust mites, and animal dander. They are effective at trapping a majority of indoor particulates that could affect those with asthma and allergies or even cause long-term respiratory problems.

    Current HVAC standard operating procedure

    Preventive maintenance checks are conducted based on manufacturer recommendations for the individual system in each building. Depending on the system in place, those could be conducted monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. Our maintenance work order system manages the schedules and work is automatically assigned to HVAC technicians.

    When HVAC technicians do preventive maintenance checks, they make repairs on the spot if possible or order needed parts and supplies to complete the repair in the future. When parts and supplies arrive, HVAC technicians return and make repairs.

    For approximately five years, Columbia Public Schools has partnered with a filter supply company to replace and maintain filters districtwide.

    HVAC considerations due to COVID-19

    We are increasing the daily hours that air exchanger units operate in the "occupied" mode to increase fresh air exchange in buildings.

    We have experienced, and believe we will continue to experience, disruptions in the supply chain to obtain parts for some repairs of HVAC equipment across the district due to related to COVID-19 interruptions.

    Air Ionization Purifier Questions

    Over the last several months both CPS Operations and Facilities & Construction Services (FCS) evaluated technologies to improve the mitigation strategies employed against the COVID-19 virus.

    Some common questions:

    How did CPS select the units?

    CPS Operations and FCS conducted research to determine the best solution. CPS tested a mobile “plug-and-play” unit, and a hard-install unit at two (2) CPS facilities. CPS selected the mobile units were selected for ease of deployment; plug-and-play functionality and use in spaces that would otherwise be technically infeasible to install with existing HVAC system limitations. CPS personnel installed the mobile units in classrooms and hallways locations at both Ridgeway Elementary & Benton Elementary. CPS selected the hard-install units because these units could integrate into existing HVAC and control systems. CPS’s HVAC contractors installed the units in two (2) locations at both Ridgeway Elementary & Benton Elementary. You can see an executive summary of the ionizer research here

    Are the units CPS selected safe?

    Yes. The ionization units are safe. Zero ozone was detected during field testing. CPS will continue to monitor Indoor Air Quality for continued compliance with zero ozone production.

    Was there an increase in ionization levels?

    Yes. The Board of Education received several detailed reports regarding our investigations into ionization units. The company that produces the units CPS tested also conducted testing specifically related to COVID-19 to determine efficacy. The testing results found that the units were successful in deactivating the virus.

    Are the units useful outside of the current pandemic?

    Yes. Overall, the units will help with indoor air quality. These units will have a positive effect on the Flu, Common Cold, and allergens.

    Why doesn’t CPS use smaller, less expensive units?

    Smaller units designed for the consumer require cleaning and maintenance which can include changing filters embedded with hazardous biologics. Consumer units can also produce ozone, a colorless unstable toxic gas with a pungent odor formed from oxygen by electrical discharges or ultraviolet light, which is hazardous to humans. 

    Are the units CPS selected safe?

    Yes. The ionization units are safe. Manufacturer testing and CPS field testing resulted in zero ozone emissions.

    What is the timeline for CPS to install the units?

    CPS began installing the units on December 28, 2020. The ionization systems installation is complete at all levels. 

    You can view additional FAQs here