Here are some of the most pressing questions we have heard this week.
What has been done to improve ventilation in our schools and facilities?
HVAC systems play little or no role in mitigating the transmission of large droplets, such as from a cough or sneeze. Large droplets generally carry from point of emission directly to a surface, not into the HVAC air return vent.
HVAC does play a role in controlling the spread of aerosols. Because of the small size of aerosol particles, they can travel via air currents into HVAC air return vents, and our systems can filter aerosols before the air is mixed with new fresh air and recirculated.
Our facilities team has completed an audit of HVAC systems in all Highline buildings.
- All air handling units are operable and functioning appropriately.
- Fresh air intakes have been adjusted to add maximum intake of fresh air into building air circulation.
- All vent airways are unobstructed.
- All thermostat and actuator controls are functioning at or above manufactured performance level.
- All filters have or are being changed.
- Air handler maintenance and filter changes will be done on an accelerated cycle.
Why not wait until all staff are vaccinated before starting hybrid?
As much as we wish we could ensure that all staff are vaccinated before returning to schools, it is impossible to know when enough vaccine will be available or when younger educators will be eligible. Public health officials from the CDC, Washington State and King County are not advising us to wait for staff to be vaccinated, but rather support reopening schools with safety measures in place.
We are hopeful that a number of employees will have at least their first vaccination before their grade level returns to buildings, and we are doing all we can to facilitate that. We have established a partnership with a health care provider to hold a vaccination clinic exclusively for Highline employees as soon as vaccine is available and Tier 4 of the state’s vaccine plan (which includes K-12 employees) opens.
What PPE will be required and provided for staff?
The type of PPE staff will need varies based on your duties and setting. Here is the rundown.
General group instructional setting with 6-foot distancing easily maintained: Cloth face covering that fully covers the mouth and nose OR face shield with a cloth-extension attached to the entire edge of the shield.
Small group instructional setting or bus where 6-foot distancing is mostly maintained: Cloth face covering that fully covers the mouth and nose OR non-cloth disposables (dust mask, KN95 or other filtering facepiece respirators, or non-FDA approved procedural masks.)
Small group instructional setting or bus without 6-foot distance and with sustained close contact: Half or full-face respirator with filter or powered air-purifying respirator with filter OR industrial use N95, R95, P95, or non-NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirator OR face shield and an FDA-approved KN95 mask, surgical mask, dust mask, or procedural mask (if a respirator is not reasonably obtained)
Health or isolation rooms: FDA-approved surgical mask or N95 filtering respirator OR elastomeric respirator with filter OR face shield plus a KN95 mask, surgical mask, dust mask, or procedural mask (if a respirator cannot be reasonably obtained)