Worcester Admin

HVAC upgrades in Worcester, Mass., schools will improve air quality in coronavirus pandemic

Aug. 27, 2020
$15 million project will address outdated systems in schools and other city buildings.

Worcester, Mass., is spending millions of dollars to work on HVAC systems in city buildings and its public schools to improve air filtration during the coronavirus pandemic. reports that the city is adding filters and equipment to HVAC systems and hopes to have all the work complete by the end of December.

In particular, the upgrades are needed in school buildings before students can return for in-class learning. The Worcester school district is starting the academic year with remote learning for all students. Its goal is to bring back the students with the highest need for in-person learning after the first quarter.

Including city and school buildings, the project will run about $15 million.

Worcester has 44 schools, according to the district website: 46% were constructed before 1940; 33% were constructed between 1950 and 1989; and 21% were constructed from 1990 to the present.

The age of buildings affects what kind of HVAC system is present in each school. Twenty-six buildings have no mechanical HVAC system, the district said, and 20 buildings have a partial system with fresh air intake but no mechanical exhaust. Fourteen have full mechanical HVAC systems with fresh air intake with mechanical exhaust, but with or without air conditioning.

Worcester Public Schools Chief Financial and Operations Officer Brian Allen says the upgrades are increasing the amount of outdoor air in buildings; increasing the level of filters in schools or buildings with mechanical HVAC systems; and installing needlepoint bipolar ionization equipment, either directly in the HVAC systems or through portable units.

Basement classrooms without windows or adequate ventilation will not be used when schools reopen.

The goal is to have some Worcester students return to school buildings after the first quarter ends in November. If the upgrades aren’t complete in all buildings, Allen says there is a possibility that some students may go to a different school building on a temporary basis until the work is finished.

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