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CMS Board Approves Nearly $900,000 In Air Quality Improvements For 39 Schools

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CMS interim operations director Shawn Turner shows the school board one of the ionization devices that will be installed.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Wednesday approved spending $870,910 on a system designed to improve air quality at 39 schools that lack the outside airflow that could reduce COVID-19 risk.

Those schools have been a point of contention since CMS began bringing staff and students back. Most schools can bring in outside air to reduce the risk that virus-bearing droplets will linger. But the district says at least some classrooms or buildings on the 39 campuses lack that capability.

The 8-0 vote approved a contract for Chiller Services to install needlepoint bipolar ionization systems.

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Shawn Turner, the district’s interim operations director, showed the board one of the devices.

"So what does that actually do? Well, it produces millions of positive and negative molecules that attach themselves to air particulates, or allergens, dust, viruses," she said.

That makes the particles larger and easier to filter out, she said. Turner said CMS got advice from the city of Charlotte, Cabarrus County Schools and Greenville County Schools in South Carolina before recommending the contract with Chilling Services.

Some hospitals, airports and corporate headquarters around the country also use the systems.

The Environmental Protection Agency says that this is "an emerging technology" as it relates to COVID-19 and "little research is available that evaluates it outside of lab conditions."

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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.