$13.5 million available to help Vermont schools upgrade air quality systems

Winooski, VT

Winooski, Vermont – As Vermont continues its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and seeks to build resilience for future challenges, schools across the state are investing in ventilation systems to improve indoor air quality and make classrooms healthier for students and staff.

This spring, the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) and Efficiency Vermont launched the second round of the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Grant Program, which makes $13.5 million of federal funds available to schools with qualifying projects, through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.

This year’s effort builds on the success of a previous round of IAQ programming, which in 2020 leveraged $17 million in federal funding to help 365 Vermont schools improve indoor air quality through HVAC upgrades and air quality monitoring. As a result, more than 62,000 students and 6,500 teachers now spend time in K-12 schools with improved HVAC systems that bring fresh outside air into the building. More than 140 companies, including contracted engineers and tradespeople, worked on these projects.

“Vermont’s experience with COVID-19 demonstrates how important indoor air quality is to student health, safety and ability to learn,” said Secretary of Education Dan French. “Air handling systems often come with high upfront costs, especially when buildings are older, as many of our schools are. This grant program, along with technical assistance from Efficiency Vermont, brings important upgrades to these systems within reach. Studies show that improving indoor air quality mitigates the spread of airborne viruses and leads to better health and education outcomes. This is an important measure that will have wide ranging benefits beyond COVID-19 mitigation.”

“Engaging so many schools and contractors within a short period of time, was a substantial undertaking”, French added. “With its statewide platform and decades of experience helping schools invest in energy efficiency upgrades, Efficiency Vermont has been a valuable partner in this undertaking.”

There is strong evidence that improving ventilation and filtration can slow the transmission of infectious diseases like COVID-19. The anticipated eligible projects under the program align with COVID-19-specific guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We are honored to help AOE ensure schools with the greatest need and opportunity to dramatically increase indoor air quality are able to access these funds, connect with contractors needed to implement the improvements, and apply any available energy efficiency incentives to further lower the cost of these projects,” said Jody Lesko, Efficiency Vermont Program Director. “In addition to providing better air quality, these investments will also reduce schools’ operating costs into the future.”

Despite the large number of schools that received IAQ grants in the 2020 round, some Vermont schools still do not have mechanical ventilation in all of their buildings. Those schools will get first priority for funding. Efficiency Vermont began accepting grant applications in mid-March and will make funding decisions on a rolling basis until all of the funds are committed. All projects approved for funding are required to be completed by Oct. 31, 2024.

“Our school communities greatly value EVT's engineering expertise and HVAC industry insights that were extended to our school systems as part of the urgently needed indoor air quality pandemic response,” said Frank Rucker, Business Administrator Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, which participated in the 2020 grant program. “The capable staff at EVT helped to explain and assess indoor air quality functions to a wide variety of stakeholders within our schools and to design solutions that met ASHRAE standards. Safe and healthy learning environments were substantially improved throughout many of our classrooms.”

About Efficiency Vermont

As the nation’s first Energy Efficiency Utility, Efficiency Vermont has helped Vermont avoid over 13.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and has received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence award for the last seven consecutive years. Efficiency Vermont works with partners to help our state transition to more affordable, low carbon energy use through education, incentives, and support for our clean energy workforce. Learn more at www.efficiencyvermont.com.

About the Agency of Education

The Agency of Education implements state and federal laws, policies, and regulations to ensure all Vermont learners have equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities. The Agency accomplishes this mission through the provision of its leadership, support, and oversight of Vermont’s public education system. www.education.gov

Efficiency Vermont
Jeff Buell
Phone: (802) 540-7662
jbuell@veic.org

Vermont Agency of Education
Ted Fisher
Director of Communications and Legislative Affairs
802-595-5562
ted.fisher@vermont.gov