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School Ventilation Upgrades a Breath of Fresh Air

Ventilation system changes to improve air quality, including “bipolar ionization” air purifying devices being installed in all 4J buildings

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the 2020–21 school year and our community, and it is transforming some aspects of our school facilities as well.

Building technologies and practices are important tools to provide safe, secure, sustainable learning spaces during and after the pandemic. Eugene School District 4J’s facilities team has researched recommendations for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, including information from the Centers for Disease Control, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Education, and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

The district is undertaking recommended changes to improve air quality and reduce COVID-19 risks, including evaluating and changing our operation of major ventilation systems district-wide.

During times of communicable disease such as COVID-19, 4J buildings will now operate exhaust fans 24 hours a day, five days a week, to increase air exchanges within the building. Programmable ventilation systems will provide up to 100% outside air when air quality and temperatures allow. Specific procedures may vary in older buildings but the ventilation system run times will be increased districtwide.

Air purifying devices are being installed in the ventilation systems in all 4J buildings to help neutralize and remove viruses and other particles from the air without producing harmful byproducts. The devices use a technology called bipolar ionization (BPI) that is in use in schools, office buildings, airports, hospitals and other community buildings around the world.

Bipolar ionization devices clean the air by producing positive and negative ions, the same ions that nature creates with lightning, waterfalls, ocean waves, sunlight and other natural phenomena. When the charged ions come into contact with airborne viruses, bacteria, or other particles, they attach to these particles and make them large enough to fall out of the air as dust or be filtered by the ventilation system. Ions attaching to a virus can also cause a chemical reaction on its surface that deactivates the virus.

These important ventilation modifications are nearly complete. The new air purifying devices have now been installed in nearly all 4J school buildings, and the remaining few buildings will be completed before students return in a hybrid model.

The bipolar ionization devices and other ventilation system changes will reduce airborne pathogens, allergens, odors, smoke and other particles in the air, creating a healthier indoor air quality environment for 4J students and staff. 

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