LIVINGSTON, NJ — Although the academic year will begin remotely on Tuesday after months of detailed preparations, the final upgrades and modifications to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems at all Livingston Public Schools (LPS) buildings are nearly complete and will be ready for when students return in person.
At the final Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) meeting before the start of the school year, LPS Business Administrator Steve Robinson and Manager of Buildings and Grounds James Perrette presented a detailed update on HVAC preparations, which included installing MERV 13 filters and univents systems in all the buildings. Portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters have also been installed in all nursing stations, and air purifiers have been purchased for all classrooms that do not have windows.
Additionally, Robinson explained that a mechanical engineering firm has been retained to perform an evaluation of the existing HVAC system, and a draft report has been received.
In order to complete the final report, the district still needed to supply additional information for the engineering firm, Johnson & Urban, LLC. Once completed, Robinson plans to make the report available to the LBOE and community at large as soon as possible.
According to Robinson, the MERV 13 filters that are now installed and operational at LPS schools go “above and beyond” what is required and are used in casinos, hospitals and general surgery operating rooms. He noted that a handful of balancing issues indicated in the draft report will be addressed immediately.
Although the supply air in certain areas was above the desired guidelines while others were still below, Robinson stated that adjustments will be made to either open or close the dampers as needed. He noted that the standard opening for the dampers is three inches.
Robinson clarified that it is not necessary to test every room and that the “system was operational and in good shape.” He added that multipurpose rooms, nurses rooms and three classrooms had been tested in all buildings as of last week, and more testing will be conducted based on the recommendation of building principals.
As the goal of the district is to have K-2 and special education return to the buildings first, LBOE member Buddy August suggested that LPS principals prioritize those classrooms as they present their individual requests for additional testing.
Robinson also said he is not familiar with any districts that have humidification systems in their HVAC systems, adding that high humidity can lead to mold and allergies. He confirmed that a normal level of humidity can range from 40-to-60 percent, and there had been occasion to install dehumidifiers in individual classrooms during warmer weather months.
Although minor adjustments and testing will be completed over the next few weeks, Robinson said the buildings can be occupied during this time period.
Following Robinson’s presentation, LBOE President Ronnie Konner reiterated that these HVAC upgrades were a priority for the district preparing the buildings to reopen.
“We want to make sure our buildings are safe, and we have complied with the recommended guidelines,” she said. “We look forward to getting the report so we can move forward confidently and that the buildings will be compliant in terms of filtration before our staff and students may report back.”
Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block expressed his appreciation toward Robinson and Perrette for being “proactive in getting the upgraded filters installed.”
“We have purchased a lot of extra HEPA filtration systems as we addressed the issue of air quality, a lot of air purifiers have been purchased and more are on order,” he said. “The issue of air quality and making sure we take what are really extra steps from state guidelines to make sure we are providing fresh and filtered air for our staff and students is really commendable.
“I know there has been an investment of funds, but also time and energy. I have learned more about HVACs in the last couple of weeks than I thought I would ever know, but the knowledge and attention to detail by the engineers has been confidence building.”
Additional information on the reopening of LPS, such as how a statewide delay in Chromebook deliveries has affected Livingston students and more, will be shared in the coming days.
Click on the headlines below for more about the Sept. 8 reopening of Livingston schools.
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