EPA to Help Schools in Bay Area Create Cleaner Air and Cooling Centers

The schools will receive technical assistance through a new demonstration program called Schools as Community Cleaner Air and Cooling Centers.

November 1, 2021

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SAN FRANCISCO  – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will use American Rescue Plan Act funding to help schools nationwide retrofit their heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems to create cleaner air and neighborhood cooling centers in vulnerable communities. In California, EPA will provide technical assistance to develop these cleaner air and cooling centers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“This assistance will help schools keep their students safer every day with healthier air,” said Administrator Michael S. Regan. “In addition, as we see increasing impacts from climate change, this approach can be a model for how other communities can create safer gathering places during dangerous heat waves and smoke events.”

The announcement comes at the launch of the White House Extreme Heat Interagency Working Group, which is co-chaired by EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. EPA will bring together partners, including public health agencies, community-based organizations, school districts, and emergency response experts, to ensure schools are safe places for kids to learn and for neighbors to gather, especially during wildfire smoke and extreme heat events.

“As climate change increases wildfire smoke impacts in the Bay Area, it’s crucial that we help protect the Bay Area’s most vulnerable residents,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Control District. “Schools are the foundation of every community and the technical assistance provided by EPA to retrofit school HVAC units will provide clean air for students and members of the community impacted by unhealthy air quality.”

EPA and its consultant team, which will include experts in community engagement, disaster policy, and HVAC engineering, will host workshops with local partners to create an action plan to retrofit the schools. The action plan, developed with community input, will include goals, such as:

  • Improving ventilation and filtration systems in public school facilities to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and other airborne illnesses.
  • Creating healthy learning environments through improved indoor air quality in schools.
  • Keeping schools open in the face of more frequent and severe extreme heat and wildfire smoke events.
  • Establishing cleaner air shelters and cooling centers in areas known to have more residents susceptible to serious health impacts from extreme heat and wildfire smoke.

Bay Area Air Quality Management District Project

Catastrophic wildfires have produced unhealthy levels of smoke which have impacted many Californians. Serving seven million residents, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will expand the work of its existing Wildfire and Clean Air Filtration Program to continue retrofitting school HVAC systems in underserved communities.

For more information on the American Rescue Plan, please visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/american-rescue-plan/

Learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. Connect with us on Facebook and on Twitter.

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