As Conroe ISD continues to follow Gov. Greg Abbott’s order against mask mandates, the district is investing in a new COVID mitigation strategy by purchasing air purifiers that claim to kill the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
At the Tuesday meeting of the CISD board of trustees, the board unanimously voted in favor of purchasing Biodefense Indoor Air Protection systems for an expenditure not to exceed $1.7 million. Trustee Ray Sanders who was not in attendance.
“Medical Air Devices (a Hunton Group Company doing business as Integrated Viral Protection Solutions, LLC.), is the provider of Biodefense Indoor Air Protection systems that instantaneously kills COVID-19 and other airborne pathogens,” according to the resolution passed Tuesday night. “Instead of trapping viruses and other pathogens in filters as an air purifier, the IVP system uses a heated filter using a metal mesh foam to “catch and kill” viruses of all species, along with other air pollutants, such as allergens and mold.”
In his presentation, CISD Director of Purchasing Rick Reeves told the board that the devices are also effective against other airborne pathogens including influenza, anthrax, strep, and chickenpox. The devices come in three sizes. The largest device is a venue unit, Reeves said, and can circulate up to 30,000 cubic feet over three to five times an hour, which could be used in spaces like cafeterias and gyms. Room units can be used in classrooms and can circulate up to 2,000 square feet.
The devices are already being used in nearby medical centers, the Texas Education Agency, and several districts across the state including Galveston ISD and Houston ISD. More devices can be in use at the district in about two weeks.
“This information first came to us through my conversations with the commissioner,” Superintendent Curtis Null said about TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. “So, the commissioner called me personally and knew what we were dealing with about a month ago, and called me personally and said ‘This is a new technology that I’ve seen, we’ve seen it working in other places. We feel that you all should look into it.’”
The district has already tested a few of the devices across campus to get a better idea of how they might affect the campus, students, and staff. The devices come with a lifetime warranty and the filters are good for two years. The $1.7 million not-to-exceed amount would cover a full-scale implementation across the entire district, but Null told the board that’s not what he would expect the district would start with.
“We’d start out with some pilots to try it out and make sure that we’re satisfied with what it is, and then we can ramp up to the full-scale,” Null said. “Full-scale would mean potentially a large unit for every campus to be placed in the commons or cafeteria, and then a number of the smaller units to be placed in high-traffic areas.”
Units could be deployed as necessary where the district is finding breakout cases of COVID, the flu, or other airborne diseases.
The funds for the purchase would come from the General or Special Revenue Funds according to the resolution, but Null noted that the district would also be pursuing grant opportunities to fund this initiative as well. Other districts have used federal COVID-relief funds to purchase the air filters as well.
“We do see the benefit well beyond COVID, though,” Null told the board. “You bring 1,000 kids, or 4,000 high school kids into a building, at any point they can become germ factories. So, even when we get past this, still I think has a benefit of making a healthier environment for our children and our teachers and we think that’s important.”
Garrett Peel, co-founder of IVP, told the trustees at the meeting that the machines are not a replacement for masks and CDC guidance, but adds another layer of protection against air-born particles that can cause disease.
“But also focuses on disinfecting the air that we breathe and elevating the science of air biology and protecting the air streams for our children and teachers and staff,” Peel said.
Anecdotal data from other districts, Peel and Null noted, showed improvement of COVID numbers across the campuses using the devices but the technology has been peer-reviewed. More information about the devices can be found at www.ivpair.com.