Wildfires have become an unfortunate part of reality here in Southern Oregon. As the season has extended and intensified, wildfire smoke, the poor air quality it brings has impacted schools in Central Point.
Due to old, inefficient boilers with no air conditioning capabilities, D6 schools have been increasingly forced to choose between closing windows during the school day and allowing classrooms to reach 100 degrees, or opening windows and exposing students and staff to smoke caused by wildfires.
Thanks to the generosity of Central Point voters in passing the 2019 Bond, that is all changing.
Wildfire smoke presents unique challenges between balancing the need for fresh air to maintain good indoor air quality against keeping the smoke particles out. The particles in smoke are typically smaller than 1 micron and smoke contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are generally detected by smell.
There are two layers of defense D6 is employing to tackle the challenge:
- Keep the smoke out
The first line of defense against smoke is to seal the building by keeping doors and windows closed. While this sounds simple, it was not possible before. Thanks to the improved and new HVAC systems, schools will be able to keep spaces cool and properly ventilated without opening doors and windows.
Even the best sealed windows and doors will still let smoke in,so the second line of defense is filtration. This past year the District upgraded to MERV 13 air filters in all of its facilities, which are rated to remove at least 50% of the particles from 0.3 to 1 micron. That’s good, but not good enough.This winter the D6 will install electrostatic filters, or polarized-media electronic air cleaners, which use an electrical charge to increase particle removal efficiency. These filters have been tested to remove 97% of fine particles (0.3 to 1 micron) and 40% of ultrafine particles (less than 0.3 microns)
“No system will be completely impervious to the wildfire smoke, but our goal is to limit the impact to our students and staff as much as possible and keep everyone healthy,'' said D6 superintendent Walt Davenport.