By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
The first batch of reports from the city’s newly deployed “ventilation action teams” were released Aug. 27, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza confirmed after touring a Bronx Collaborative High School classroom to “inspect” its windows and ventilation system on Wednesday afternoon.
“Hundreds of schools have already passed,” de Blasio told reporters during his second education-related press conference of the day outside of the Bronx school. “We’re going to continue to give you updates day by day as to how many schools have been checked and ready to go.”
Tuesday, the two city officials announced that 100 teams of “ventilation action teams” would walk through all of the city’s 1,800 public schools to ensure that windows opened properly, HVAC filters had been upgraded and that the systems were properly sucking and blowing out air. The groups of engineers would also test the air’s carbon dioxide levels.
Inspections will stop by Sept. 1 and all findings will be posted online by Sept. 4, according to city officials.
As more research supports that the novel coronavirus can circulate within the air of indoor spaces, parents and teachers are eager to know if school the status of school ventilation systems ahead of school reopening. Inspectors will either deem classrooms ready to go, identify what needs to fixed to allow for proper ventilation or take classrooms offline.
But a day after the city after the “multi-agency” endeavor was announced, pictures of the city’s school ventilation action teams using a piece toilet paper on the end of a yardstick to check if ventilators were expelling air calling the teams’ standards into question.
School communities are asking: how much of the toilet paper has to move around to determine adequate air flow? Let that sink in.
— Mark Treyger (@MarkTreyger718) August 26, 2020
At Bronx Collaborative, De Blasio and Carranza said that the “tissue test” was a CDC recommend means to measure a room’s airflow.
In the empty class the pair tour, the air condition is on full blast, windows are open and there are only seven large desks paired with a single chair in the room, according to a pool report from New York Times education reporter Eliza Shapiro. Only nine students will sit in the classroom when the school reopens on Sept. 10, according to the school’s founding principal Brett Schneider.
During the brief tour, de Blasio asked School Construction Authority consultant Jim Dolan how far windows should open and what amount of air flow he looked for in a ventilation system. Dolan said that there were no exact rules for windows and that he just wanted to make sure unit ventilators worked, according to the pool report.
De Blasio said that school janitorial staff have inspected city schools since June 3 and called the action teams’ efforts a final run through.
“We are getting ready for liftoff,” de Blasio told reporters. “The work has been going on all summer.”