Helping Schools Make the Grade in Indoor Air Quality


Helping Schools Make the Grade in Indoor Air Quality

Helping Schools Make the Grade in Indoor Air Quality.

Learn more about the Federal Campaign for Efficient and Healthy Schools

How can you get your school on the honor roll when it comes to clean, fresh healthy air? Join the Efficient and Healthy Schools Campaign.

Launched in 2021, the campaign provides technical assistance and recognition to school districts in implementing high-impact indoor air quality and efficiency improvements that will reduce energy bills and improve student and teacher health and performance.

The interagency effort between the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Education has enrolled 42 school districts representing more than 2.8 million students in 3,400 schools. School districts serving low-income student populations and rural areas are a particular focus of the campaign.

The Efficient and Healthy Schools Campaign is designed to address serious deficiencies in our educational energy infrastructure, second only to our highway system in public infrastructure spending.

41% of school districts surveyed need to update or replace HVAC systems and half of them had HVAC-related problems.

– Government Accountability Office

First, the bad news. The Infrastructure Report Card rates our nation’s school facilities in D+ condition. In addition, a June 2020 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that about half of public school districts struggle to maintain key building systems that ensure facilities are free of health hazards. The same report also found that 41% of school districts need to update or replace HVAC systems, and half of the schools visited by GAO had HVAC-related problems such as leakage, floor and ceiling damage.


These chronic and widespread problems can profoundly affect student and teacher well-being. For example, two scientific reviews (Lie et al. 2007; Luongo et al. 2016) concluded that inadequate building ventilation is associated with the increased risk of transmission of respiratory infections, including COVID‑19 and many others.

6 high school studentsFurther studies (Mendell and Heath, 2005; Fisk, 2017; Brink et al.,2020) have found that breathing fresh air is critical for keeping students alert and healthy, while spaces with low ventilation rates are associated with lower average daily attendance, slower speed in completing tasks, and higher rates of suspension.

And a recent study of 100 classrooms by the LANCET COVID‑19 Commission revealed that ventilation and air cleaning improvements are likely to lead to improved academic performance (in particular reading and math performance), fewer missed school days for students, higher scores on cognitive function tests, and many benefits for teachers including decreased respiratory symptoms, increased teacher retention, and improved morale.


Now the good news. There are a wide range of cost-effective solutions to America’s educational energy infrastructure problems. Moreover, the federal government offers you several funding opportunities to defray the expense of these improvements.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) and the 2021 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) provide tens of billions of dollars in funding to K-12 public schools for facility and transportation improvements.

This financial assistance will help remedy the historical inequity of school facilities investments, reduce school energy expenditures, help schools lead the nation in addressing the climate crisis, and create good-paying jobs.

One often overlooked and underemployed healthy air technology is ultraviolet light or germicidal UV‑C, which scrambles the genetic material in bacteria, viruses and fungi so they can’t replicate. Since the 1930s, UV‑C has been proven to inactivate infectious diseases in classrooms and lecture halls. Hundreds of successful, peer-review research studies have demonstrated its ability to halt these viruses, bacteria, fungi and other pathogens.

Even better, UV‑C creates no hazardous chemicals, VOC, ozone or dangerous byproducts. UV‑C disinfection technology can be combined with your existing filtration to create a layering of technologies that can capture and destroy pathogens without sacrificing airflow or ventilation levels. It’s one of the most affordable infection mitigation strategies. And it can reduce your HVAC energy use by up to 20%.

To learn more about the US Department of Energy’s Efficient Healthy Schools Campaign and to participate, visit

Published Mar. 28, 2023