WEST ORANGE, NJ — At the end of August, West Orange Public Schools (WOPS) Superintendent Dr. Scott Cascone gave an update on the district's plans to remediate its ventilation system.

Here is a timeline of the district’s remediation efforts for the coronavirus:

Following the West Orange Board of Education's (WOBOE) Aug. 24 public policy meeting during which Michael Wozny, a representative from EI Associates, came to present the board with options and a timeline for the 2020-2021 school year, West Orange Public Schools (WOPS) Superintendent Dr. Scott Cascone said that the best option would be to install Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization Technology (NBIT) instead of opting to rely on the cheaper air purifiers.

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Cascone explained that while the mobile air purifiers are cheaper, the additional investment in the NBIT would be beneficial in the long run because including the ionization technology in the district's already existing HVAC system would help with the district's current ventilation issues and the standalone air purifiers would take up much needed space when students and teachers are able meet in person in the future. 

Cascone added that the NBIT, unlike the air purifiers, have been empirically tested by the FAA on airplanes and shown to be “effective in the mitigation or containment of COVID-19 in the air.”

 Using the NBIT on existing classroom unit vents and rooftop units, would also allow the district to place air purification units in the spaces which have no windows and no HVAC or had windows but no HVAC. 

In terms of preparing for reopening in November, during the Sept. 21 meeting, the superintendent shared guidelines from the CDC and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) that would need to be kept in mind before students and teachers occupy the buildings.

Cascone said that according to the CDC, ventilation systems need to operate properly and provide acceptable indoor air quality for allowed occupancy levels. To improve air circulation, it is suggested that outdoor dampers or vents be opened as high as 100 percent to increase dilution and to prevent recirculation of indoor air.

Cascone added that keeping the dampers open may be difficult to do in cold or hot weather and in addition, when Wozny presented to the board, he had mentioned that some dampers are unable to open fully because of retrofits made that have “impeded the normal airflow.”

The NJDOE adds that indoor facilities should have adequate ventilation, by maintaining operational HVAC systems and ensuring that recirculated air has a fresh air component.

In order to comply with these guidelines, the superintendent explained that representatives from EI Associates did a walkthrough of the district to see which parts would be needed for the different buildings on Sept. 10. 

After that survey, the district purchased 25 air purification units, which are equipped with HEPA filters and UV light, with an additional 170 air purification units are expected to be delivered in the coming days.

The district also purchased a FC24 or Envirocleanse bipolar ionization unit, which will be installed onto the purchased air purifiers. 

By doing this—which is not unlike the idea to install the NBIT on the existing classroom unit vents and rooftop units—Cascone said that the district has saved $1,600 dollars per air purification unit.

After ensuring that the FC24 unit worked on the air purifier as intended, the district issued a purchase order for an additional 194 FC24 units, which as of the Oct. 5 board meeting have been delivered ahead of schedule, meaning that the air purifiers will be prepared in advance of the Nov. 9 in-person reopening date.

“This is going to really ensure that the air quality in our rooms is at the highest level possible and that our staff and students are as safe as possible,” Cascone said, continuing that with this update, the district will have “ample units” that will be deployed in classrooms for when students come into the buildings.

Some portable units will remain in rooms that have not yet had its mechanical system remediated wit the NBIT. Otherwise, other portable units will be moved to classrooms that have no mechanical ventilation but have windows.

Cascone added that that bipolar ionization materials for the unit vents and the rooftop units will be arriving soon with emphasis on special services rooms.

The district’s current remediation process is expected to cost between $1 million to $1.2 million and funds will be taken out of capital or emergency reserve.

“We’re excited [and] it’s looking very promising that we will have all the equipment installed and ready to go by Nov. 9,” Cascone said.