Upgrades made to help stop spread of COVID could mean healthier kids during cold & flu season

Wondering how you can keep your child healthy this flu season? Courtney Allen has the answers!
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 1:23 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Your kids could stay healthier this upcoming cold and flu season and it is all thanks to a key upgrade in school districts across Middle Tennessee.

WSMV4 combed through federal data and found more than a dozen local school districts are using federal funds form the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to improve HVAC systems.

The purpose, in part, was to help keep COVID from spreading when students returned to school.

However, it may also help keep traditional fall and winter illnesses at bay as well.

In all, Tennessee public schools received $4.5 billion in “ESSER” funding, which stands for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief.

DeKalb County Schools spent around $2 million on HVAC upgrades, including adding A/C in several gyms and replacing 25-year-old units.

DeKalb County Schools maintenance supervisor Aaron Young said the HVAC units are only supposed to last 15 years.

“It really felt like before, you were trying to breathe in a plastic bag,” Young said.

DeKalb County isn’t alone. Metro Nashville Public Schools spent $21 million on HVAC improvements, including increasing the MERV rating on air filters at Dupont Elementary.

“The higher the MERV rating, the smaller particulate matter the filter would catch,” Bruce Rasnick, Project Manager for Energy and Conservation for Metro Schools, said.

It could all translate to healthier kids.

“Anything that increases ventilation and purifies the air should reduce asthma or allergic type symptoms for these children which should help them focus during school,” Dr. Ritu Banerjee at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt said.

Those higher quality filters could also help keep other respiratory illnesses like colds and the flu from spreading.

“It is hard to predict, but I think they can only help,” Banerjee said.

For information about how your child’s school district plans to spend ESSER funds, the Tennessee Department of Education has set up a dashboard.