MAUSD gets air quality report card

BRISTOL — Building scientists who were hired to study indoor air quality in Mount Abraham Unified School District have given a passing grade to all six schools.

But there’s room for improvement.

“Overall, efforts to keep the buildings running have been pretty good,” said Fred McKnight, senior vice president of the H. L. Turner Group, during the Sept. 24 meeting of the MAUSD board. “You’re ahead in some places, in terms of systems and operations than maybe most schools or districts this size.”

The Turner Group’s report, which was recently submitted to the district, contains three takeaways, McKnight told the school board.

1. The district should establish a preventive maintenance program for all of the mechanical systems that manage heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC). 

McKnight recommended conducting bi-annual inspections and keeping appropriate records, which will allow maintenance personnel to respond more effectively to future issues. It would also provide the district with comprehensive inventory of each building’s equipment.

2. Maintenance personnel should receive further training on equipment and management systems.

McKnight cited an instance in one of the district schools’ multipurpose rooms where a carbon dioxide monitor indicated a system malfunction, but no one seemed to notice.

3. The Turner Group determined that most of the issues they found, which McKnight characterized as “minimal,” had to do with malfunctioning equipment.

When asked by MAUSD board member Steve Rooney (Starksboro) about the longevity of the district’s HVAC equipment McKnight said that none of the equipment he encountered appeared to be at the end of its life cycle.

MAUSD encompasses Mount Abraham Union High School and elementary schools in Bristol, Starksboro, New Haven, Lincoln and Monkton.

While the Turner Group conducted the study last spring, McKnight also presented classroom modules in all six MAUSD schools, teaching students about indoor air quality and the science behind it.

This was an important component to the project and a high priority for the school district, said MAUSD superintendent Patrick Reen at the school board meeting. 

DISTRICT RESPONSE

According to MAUSD Facilities Director Joel FitzGerald, the district has already taken the following steps in response to the report:

•purchased a new carbon dioxide meter.

•repaired all of the malfunctioning HVAC units.

•initiated a preventive maintenance program this semester.

•added $40,000 in system control upgrades, which FitzGerald suggested would pay for themselves down the road by allowing his team to monitor district-wide systems and provide spot heating from a centralized location.

COLLABORATION

The study was initially suggested by the 5-Town Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Citizens Group, whose members connected the district with the Turner Group and provided assistance to the contractor during the study.

“This project engaged the community, actively involved students in hands-on learning and took a fiscally responsible approach to addressing the associated issues,” said David Brynn in an email to the Independentbefore the Sept. 24 board meeting. “Our IAQ Citizens Group is pleased to have been involved.”

Fellow IAQ Citizens Group member Steve Harris said he hopes the reports turn out to be useful as the district continues to discuss the future of its buildings.

“By engaging Turner and acting on the data collection and maintenance suggestions, the district, the board and the committee have extra tools and resources to apply to some of the tough choices facing public education in the face of declining student enrollment and increasing cost-per-student,” he wrote in an email to the Independenton Friday.

Separate reports were issued for each of the district’s schools and can be found on the MAUSD website: anesu.org/district-reports.

Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com

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