Updates to Ventilation Guidance

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

To: Superintendents, Communicable Disease Preparedness Liaisons, Charter School Leaders, Principals, K-12 Public Information Officers 
From: Kati Moseley; Administrator, Health in Education  
Date: June 28, 2023 
Re: Updates to Ventilation Guidance 

Dear Colleagues,  

As we prepare for the upcoming academic year, summer is an opportunity to think about how to ensure school buildings are ready to support the health and safety of students and staff. One way to do so is through improvements in ventilation, which can help reduce the spread of viruses and improve indoor air quality.   

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance on ventilation in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. Because viral particles can spread between people more easily indoors than outdoors, ventilation is an important mitigation tool to reduce the risk of infection.  

To improve ventilation, it is important to confirm that your HVAC systems are operating properly, following the manufacturer’s instructions. This includes: 

  • Maintaining the HVAC system regularly.  
  • Changing the filters in the system regularly. 
  • Ensuring filters fit properly so little or no air gets around the filters. 

With a well-maintained HVAC system, schools can adopt additional strategies to improve indoor air quality: 

  • Aim for at least 5 air changes per hour in occupied spaces. More air changes per hour helps increase airflow and reduce the number of viruses in the air. 
  • Use filters rated Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13 or higher. A higher-rated filter can trap more particles from the air than a lower-rated one.  
  • Adjust HVAC systems to increase total airflow when the building is occupied. This may mean setting the HVAC fan to “on” instead of “auto” so the fan operates continuously. This will circulate more air and reduce the risk of exposure for people inside. 
  • Bring in more outdoor air. Open outdoor air dampers on HVAC equipment beyond the minimum settings, use exhaust fans, and open windows and doors when safe and healthy to do so. Use fans in spaces where windows are open to better circulate outdoor air. 
  • Use portable or built-in high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan or filtration systems (e.g., air cleaners, air purifiers). These can also help reduce the number of viral particles in the air. 
  • Use ultraviolet air treatment systems. These can kill viruses in the air and on surfaces when used properly. 

To see how some of these changes could benefit your buildings, explore the CDC’s Interactive School Ventilation Tool. This tool shows how different ventilation modifications can affect the level of particles in the air. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has helpful resources to support healthy indoor air quality in schools. 

Please do not hesitate to reach out to ODE’s Healthy Schools support inbox with any questions, ODE.HealthySchools@ode.oregon.gov.