Teachers Agree: Schools Should Take Responsibility for Improving Air Quality

There’s a striking disconnect between US teachers and school administrations around how air quality is prioritized. In partnership with We Are Teachers, Fellowes conducted a national survey of K-12 educators at the end of 2023. This survey polled 2,682 U.S. educators, employed either full-time or part-time, who work at least one day a week inside their school’s facilities.

Even though more than 96% of teachers see a direct impact between air quality and student and teacher performance, schools are not offering adequate support to improve their school’s indoor air quality (IAQ). From a list that included Classroom Technology and Athletics Facilities resources, teachers consistently rated Indoor Air Purification Systems as their district’s last priority. Despite calls for increased air purification unit implementation utilizing federal ESSER funds, only 26% of survey respondents rated their school’s IAQ as good or excellent and 40% reported a total absence of any air purification units throughout the entire school.

The survey also revealed how teachers express their concerns and advocate for improved IAQ management. Over a third (34%) of teachers reported requesting air purification units in their classrooms with just 16% granted IAQ improvement solutions. Only 35% felt like their schools had made or were planning to make improvements to indoor air quality, showing a clear lack of investment in these concerns.

These findings underscore a critical misalignment between the perceptions of educators and the actions of school administrators regarding indoor air quality (IAQ) in US schools. Despite overwhelming acknowledgment from teachers of the direct correlation between IAQ and student and teacher performance, schools are falling short in addressing this vital aspect of the learning environment. The limited implementation of air purification units, despite available federal funding, highlights a systemic failure to prioritize the well-being and productivity of educational communities. As educators continue to advocate for improved IAQ management, it is imperative for school administrations to heed these concerns and allocate resources accordingly, ensuring that all students and staff have access to healthy and conducive learning environments.

Read The Full Survey’s Results

What School District Leaders Can Do

After exploring air quality in schools across the country, Fellowes has seen the immense potential for IAQ improvement in K-12 classrooms. At 97% of respondents, teachers overwhelmingly agree that school districts have a responsibility to provide clean air in classrooms. Much like teachers do, Fellowes believes that clean indoor air is a right for everyone.

Fellowes specializes in working with school administrators and facility management decision makers to equip them with the knowledge they need to improve air quality in schools. This starts with a complimentary indoor air quality assessment to understand the complex ecosystems of each indoor environment. Our assessment tracks the area’s overall air quality across a variety of metrics including total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), carbon dioxide, relative humidity, air pressure, and more. Completed assessments provide schools with IAQ data along with recommendations for possible remediation improvements.

Schools that invest in air purification systems with advanced filtration can protect teachers, students, and staff from airborne viruses, bacteria, pollution, asthma, allergens, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Localized indoor air purification with H13 True HEPA filters can remove 99.95% of viruses, bacteria, and other harmful particles as small as 0.1 microns.
Cleaner indoor air is also linked to increased cognitive function and productivity, according to research led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Better air quality contributes to better health, minimized illness and student absences, and increased peace of mind. Each of these factors can significantly impact the performance of teachers and students alike.

Air purification is a key part of any facility management program. Both the CDC and trade association ASHRAE recommend a clean air delivery rate and filtration levels equivalent to five air changes per hour (eACH), or higher, depending upon the space. Air purification with H13 True HEPA filters can effectively augment the benefits of an HVAC system that uses MERV-13 filters to achieve the minimum recommended standard of five eACH.

As a leader in localized indoor air purification for the last 15 years, Fellowes has placed more than 350,000 air purification units in K-12 schools across the country. In the face of these air quality nationwide concerns, Fellowes recommends that school district leaders:

  • Create a process to collect specific classroom concerns from teachers and staff
  • Leverage indoor air quality assessments to validate those concerns
  • Create and implement an IAQ improvement plan, including the installation of localized air purification systems
  • Measure the performance of IAQ management efforts and share updates with schools’ faculty and staff

For more information on Fellowes and finding the right Air Quality Management system for your school, please visit: https://www.fellowes.com/us/en/catalog/air-quality-management.