Doctor and CDC agree ventilation is helpful for safe classrooms, HVAC issues remain in CMS

Not only is it creating hot classrooms, but some doctors warn of potentially dangerous situations for the spread of COVID-19.
Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 7:40 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools operation workers were busy Thursday fixing HVAC units that weren’t working.

CMS leaders said at least six to eight schools were experiencing issues where the HVAC wasn’t working at all or in a very limited capacity.

MORE: ‘Sweating bullets:’ Multiple CMS schools experiencing HVAC issues inside of school buildings

Not only is that creating hot classrooms, but some doctors warn of potentially dangerous situations for the spread of COVID-19.

WBTV is on your side digging into why the HVAC issues weren’t fixed before school especially after CMS received millions from federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Allocation fund.

According to a CMS budget proposal for the 21′-22′ school year, CMS expected to receive more than $141 million federal dollars from the Coronavirus Response and Relief fund (CRSSA) that was supposed to help schools prepare for return to in person learning.

In a CMS PowerPoint from May, a slide said $43 million of the full allocation would go to health and safety, including HVAC optimization. But when we asked if that money was used and how, we didn’t get a response from CMS.

“Bottom line, you’re HVAC needs to be up to perfect running condition at this time,” said Dr. Laura Sinai, who is a pediatrician in Charlotte.

Doctors and the CDC agree, a layered approach when it comes back to school is how to keep kids safe.

“In your car, you wear your seat belt. You also don’t drink and drive. You also have antilock brakes. You also have a backup camera. So that’s layered approach so there’s multiple things to keep you safe while doing that activity,” Dr. Sinai said.

Dr. Sinai says when it comes to spread of COVID-19 in schools, it’s masks, social distancing and good ventilation. But the latter’s been a problem at some CMS schools.

“We are aware of HVAC Issues across the district that range from 1-2 classrooms to entire hallways in buildings,” said Superintendent Earnest Winston at a press conference on Wednesday. Operations managers for CMS said HVAC issues were affected 6 to 8 schools.

“They could be without air, or air at 50% capacity,” a CMS leader said at that same press conference.

And doctors say that could lead to problems if other safety measures aren’t taken seriously.

“That viral particle that has come out of my mouth or nose. Is staying right here in front of me. Not going anywhere,” Dr. Sinai said. “And if you’re standing in front of me and you take a deep breath its either going to go into your nose or mouth, maybe all the way into your lungs. Any of those places are ways to catch COVID-19.”

MORE: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to offer incentives for recent hires in four shortage areas

WBTV News reached out to CMS for an update on the HVAC issues, plus a statement on their funding budget when it comes to the federal Coronavirus relief money. They have not yet responded.

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