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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

CMS Says 39 Schools Have Airflow Problems

Ann Doss Helms

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has released a list of 39 schools that lack outside airflow, which is creating concerns about COVID-19 safety for adults and eventually students in those buildings.

The subject came up at an Aug. 25 school board meeting. Teachers and parents had raised questions about whether airborne virus might circulate and create risks in buildings without outside airflow.

Maintenance and engineering director Fakhar Shahbaz said his staff was working to bring in more fresh air, but 39 of the district's 176 schools lacked that option.

The list, released to WFAE Thursday, includes older schools scattered across the county. In 21 cases the lack of outside air is limited to one or two buildings.

Also Thursday, CMS provided a list of 25 schools going through "air optimization projects." At the Aug. 25 meeting, Shahbaz said that's an ongoing project that started about four years ago, adding 10 to 12 schools a year. 

A CMS spokeswoman added Friday that air optimization projects involve cleaning all parts of the school's HVAC system, working to improve the air flow and sanitizing the system with an antimicrobial product.

At Thursday's meeting of an advisory panel on metrics for the safe return of students, teacher Steve Oreskovic asked whether CMS believes the air quality is safe now. Chief School Performance Officer Kathy Elling said yes.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.