As the number of COVID-19 cases remains high in the state of Texas and across the country, Comal ISD has taken an innovative step to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus and other airborne viruses in its schools.
The district recently installed biodefense indoor air protection units in eight of its schools. These new units absorb air and send it through a heated air filter, where heat destroys germs before the unit recirculates clean air without changing the temperature in the area. Integrated Viral Protection (IVP), the manufacturer of the units, says the technology is 99.9% effective.
“We have been using these units since last fall. This technology is a unique but valuable tool that improves the safety of our students and teachers during this pandemic,” says Comal ISD Board President David Drastata.
The district placed the units in high-traffic areas – hallways and cafeterias – at some of the its larger schools. The “plug and purify” units, roughly six feet tall, are mobile so they can be moved from one location to another for specific events. The devices feature a boost circulation mode for large, high-traffic areas and a quiet circulation mode for smaller areas such as classrooms and libraries.
“These units are a valuable new piece of our virus mitigation plan and provide students and staff with an extra layer of security,” says Andrew Kim, superintendent of Comal ISD.
Kim says the district’s plan has been highly effective so far.
“Communication and coordination are a key part of our effort. Staff and students have worked together and have been mindful of their personal health and wellness, which has helped us limit the spread of a virus.”
Currently, 80 percent of the district’s students are participating in on-campus learning. The number of COVID-19 cases in the district has remained low because of effective prevention measures the district has implemented at schools, including:
- Asking students to wear masks when they are not able to social distance
- Encouraging good hygiene through frequent hand washing
- Cleaning of high-touch areas before, during and after school by teachers and campus custodians
- Providing campuses with significant supplies of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, masks and other personal protective equipment
- A case management process that has effectively tracked sources of the virus to mitigate the spread of it
- Periodically testing indoor air quality in schools
- Using CDC-recommended air filters in HVAC systems
- Deployment of professional disinfection and cleaning services every three months in schools, buses and auxiliary facilities
- Creation of a Facility Response Team – a specialized crew of staff and custodians – to help campuses with cleaning and other services to reduce the possibility of an increase in cases at a school
So far, the majority of coronavirus cases in the district have been traced to outside sources such as family events or the weekend activities of individuals.
Comal ISD is one of the first organizations to use the IVP air protection technology. The technology was invented in Houston and is being used at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center. According to IVP, it also is being used by school districts in Slidell, Galveston and Baytown.