Air filter fundraiser aims to boost clean air on upper school campuses

Sarah Belle Lin

The Wellness Center's on-campus site at PHS, seen here in a 2019 photo.

In an effort to enhance air quality and minimize the transmission of airborne viruses like COVID-19 in classrooms, parent volunteers at the Piedmont Middle and High Schools are getting close to raising enough funds to add HEPA filters to more upper school classrooms as an extra layer of protection for students, teachers, and staff. An elementary school initiative to put the filters in each classroom earlier this year raised $22,000 in one week; the upper schools are about 70% of the way toward meeting their goal.

HEPA stands for “high efficiency particulate air [filter]”. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  “this type of air filter can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (┬Ám).”

PUSD has already used government COVID funding to install county-approved MERV-13 filters in all school buildings, filtering the air from the fresh air intakes as well as air that is re-circulated through the building to remove as many aerosol particles as possible in public indoor spaces.

“There are a number of secondary classrooms that already have advanced filtration systems, the STEAM building at PHS for example,” said PHS Parent Club Co-President Linda Smith Munyan. “We worked with [Facilities Director] Pete Palmer to identify those secondary classrooms across PHS, MHS and PMS that should be included in this project.”

While windows can be kept open in many classrooms to enhance air circulation, doing so in some spaces, like the Wellness Center office, could compromise the privacy of students who seek counseling there. The filters can also help improve air quality during fires or times of poor air quality, an increasingly common problem as the region experiences drought conditions.

“The medical grade HEPA air filters we are seeking provide an added layer of protection from COVID-19 and other viruses, as well as protection from the fine particles that are of the greatest concern during fire season (called PM 2.5, or particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less),” said Carol Menz, one of PUSD’s district nurses. “These fine particles can be inhaled deeply into the lungs due to their small size, and as a result  can negatively affect respiratory and heart health. The carbon filter system on these units can also help remove chemicals, gasses, and odors. And due to the fact that the units are portable, they can be moved to areas where there is the greatest need at a particular point in time.”

Middle and high school families are asked to donate $35 per student. You can help the upper schools meet their goal by donating HERE

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