September 8, 2021
At the School Board Meeting of September 9, 2021, School Board Vice Chair Dr. Steve Gallon III will call for a comprehensive, districtwide review and plan for addressing systemwide issues with air conditioning units at schools. During the Facilities & Construction committee meeting, the item received unanimous co-sponsorship from the entire Board. The School Board of Miami-Dade County is responsible for the operation, control, and supervision of all public schools within Miami-Dade County, and remains committed to the adoption and implementation of policies and practices, as well as provisions that ensure the safety of students, employees, and all stakeholders that enter its facilities. In fact, the Board has the authority, duty, and responsibility to “provide adequately for the proper maintenance and upkeep of school plants, so that students may attend school without sanitary or physical hazards…” and to “conduct a continuous program of inspection, maintenance, and rehabilitation for the preservation of all school buildings and equipment.”

Over the past several years, mounting challenges with HVAC systems, especially in older school buildings and district facilities, have increased and continue to have an adverse impact on teaching and learning, and the overall working environment. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased even more attention and focus on indoor air quality and its impact on the teaching and learning environment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided recommendations and indicated that improving ventilation as crucial to minimizing the spread of COVID-19 indoors. The focus on ventilation has come as scientists generally believe COVID-19 primarily spreads through the air, particularly indoors where stagnant air allows particles from an infected person’s breath or sneezes to linger. In addition, a spate of recent research has linked air conditioning, air filters, and other building improvements to gains in student learning. Thus, the stakes of improving the air quality through HVAC systems in school buildings in M-DCPS and across the nation are higher than ever.

Despite previous investments and the herculean efforts of district maintenance staff, M-DCPS continues to face tremendous challenges with HVAC systems in schools, offices, and buildings throughout the district. Such challenges are acute and exacerbated in older schools and buildings. Such conditions are even more pervasive throughout the year due to South Florida’s year-round heat and humidity. Also, some systems may have greatly exceeded their lifespan and require frequent, costly repairs. Significant costs of repair and replacement of HVAC systems have often impeded the development of a specific, targeted plan for the procurement of HVAC systems in M-DCPS. The infusion of unprecedented federal dollars to address the safety, health, and welfare of students and employees in schools and includes provisions for such purchases, better positions M-DCPS to plan, implement, and deliver new systems in older schools and buildings.

The recent opening of schools has once again revealed the significant challenges the district faces with ensuring that HVAC systems in its schools, offices, and buildings are effectively operating. Several schools and classrooms throughout the district have reported breakdowns and lingering experiences with non-operating systems—requiring students and employees to deal with often uncomfortable, sometimes unbearable conditions. Again, with the threat of COVID-19 looming through the air and thriving in poorly ventilated environments, addressing the district’s HVAC systems and challenges has not only become an issue of discomfort, but potentially an issue of health and safety-to-life.

“I am proud to receive the co-sponsorship and unanimous support of my colleagues on the Board. It is a recognition of not only our collective obligation but tremendous opportunity to address, correct, and in many instances replace old, worn out HVAC systems in our schools,” said Dr. Gallon.

“Students and employees are too often compelled to suffer in unbearable conditions when the air conditioning unit breaks down in a school. Due to COVID-19, such conditions are not simply a matter of physical discomfort, it has now become a matter of life and death,” he said.

“The unprecedented infusion of federal funds for these purposes gives the District the much needed resources to address these lingering issues through a strategic, systemwide approach to not simply repair systems, but to replace those that have greatly exceeded their lifespan.”

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CONTACT: Pavi’Elle Phillips