WESTFIELD, NJ — Ventilation systems upgrades are underway at Westfield’s public schools.

The district has installed bipolar ionization filtration systems in all classroom ventilation units throughout its three secondary schools, and is currently installing the systems at its seven primary schools, district officials said Tuesday.

“That’s being installed in all the unit ventilators in classrooms throughout the district, to improve air quality and deactivate viruses, bacteria and other harmful substances,” Superintendent Margaret Dolan said at Tuesday night’s board meeting. Dolan said the installation will be completed before heat is required in the buildings.

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“The unit vents are there to make sure that we are recycling fresh air throughout,” Dolan said. “Because we have the unit ventilators throughout the district, we were not going to have to open windows or use the fans during the winter.”

“I know there was some concern about that,” she added. “It is possible to do so, if it makes sense on a given day or in a given classroom, but there’s no requirement to do that because the unit vents provide the exchange of air that’s required.”

In September, the school board had approved the purchase of 460 of the filtration units costing $364,745. 

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Dolan said ultraviolet light filters have been installed in areas of the district that use rooftop air-handling units.

“We do have some areas of the district that have rooftop air-handling units,” Dolan said. “For those we have installed ultraviolet light filters. They were purchased in the spring, and they’ve already been installed, and they also sanitize the air.”

“Whatever the system is that’s in place, in any given school or in any given classroom, we have installed items to make sure that the air is being sanitized,” Dolan said.

Michael Bielen, who chairs the board’s facilities committee, said the new systems will have long-term benefits for the district.

“The overall air quality throughout all of the buildings are going to be improved,” Bielen said. “So, we’re going to get a benefit from it, regardless of COVID, even going forward.”

SAT Testing in Schools

Bielen also addressed the cleaning that took place after SAT testing was held at Westfield High School.

“There was concern from some of the parents about [the fact that] we were holding the SAT test and were having students coming in from outside,” Bielen said.

Sean McArthur, the district’s buildings and grounds supervisor, told the board’s facilities committee at a recent meeting that all cleaning protocols were followed following the administration of the exam.

“We do the same kind of cleaning as we do normal day in and day out,” Bielen said, citing McArthur. “Once the students left, we had our whole normal cleaning process. All the disinfectants were applied. They used their sprayer to make sure all the surfaces were cleaned, not only in the classrooms, but in the contact areas, whether it be hallways or bathrooms.”

Westfield High School is operating on a fully-remote basis. Six students at the school have tested positive for COVID-19.

Election Day

A similar cleaning process will take place after Election Day, Business Administrator Dana Sullivan confirmed at Tuesday’s meeting. Six of the district’s ten schools will act as polling sites for the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Sullivan said.

Poll workers and voters will only be allowed in the voting location, such as the gymnasium or auditorium, and the restrooms, she said. A deep cleaning will take place in each school that operates as a polling site after voting is completed, Sullivan said.

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