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Drury High Getting Air Quality Sensors
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:32AM / Wednesday, March 08, 2023
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Drury High School will be getting new sensors on its heating and ventilation system. 
The funding comes from a federal Improving Ventilation and Air Quality in Public School Buildings Grant of $315,615.
"We were actually identified as one of 141 school districts in Massachusetts that was eligible for this award," said Business Administrator Nancy Rauscher at Tuesday's School Committee meeting, explaining that the criteria is base in part on the city's economic profile, health disparities and COVID-19 impact. 
Rauscher and Carrie Burnett, the district's grants, special projects and procurement officer, said it was determined that Drury would best benefit from the grant. Two of the elementary schools are the focus of a feasibility study for a building project and Colegrove Park is relatively new while the high school is now 20 years out from its renovation. 
Six companies evinced interest in the project but the only bid was from CTC Inc. of Adams, which came in about $10,000 below the grant, said Rauscher. She said CTC was familiar with the high school's systems and had worked on them in the past. 
Burnett said there wasn't enough money to revamp the HVAC system so they had "to be a little creative." The project will focus on three aspects: carbon dioxide sensors on each of the air handlers, volatile organic compounds (VOC) sensors in the classrooms or on the air handlers, and ultra violet light on the air handlers. 
The CO2 sensors will allow the school to benchmark the air quality in each classroom, which it couldn't do before. The VOC sensors will be reactive to odors or chemical smells and automatically trip the system to bring in fresh air. UV lighting has been proven to kill bacteria, Burnett said, "we're going to be looking at putting in many UV lightings into the air handling units." The balance will go toward upgrades of the system's motors.
School Committee member Richard Alcombright asked if the work would be disruptive, since the grant had to be completed by the end of the fiscal year. Rauscher said the work will be coordinated with Principal Stephanie Kopala and, if not completed, the grant would have to be amended. 
"Once we've signed a contract with the vendor, we've worked closely with Stephanie to make sure we get the workflow and program and timeline that is as unobtrusive as possible," said Rauscher.
She anticipated a start date at the end of March with completion by the end of June. 
The presentation on the grant program, in part prompted by a push for better ventilation because of airborne illnesses such as the novel coronavirus, followed a discussion on whether to continue monthly COVID-19 updates. 
Mayor Jennifer Macksey, chair of the committee, had commented she would be happy the updates could be taken off the agenda. Superintendent Barbara Malkas responded she was going to ask the committee that very thing. 
"We really didn't see a huge increase in the number of cases," she said of February break. "We're seeing on average somewhere in the vicinity of seven to eight cases [a week]."
Prior to the holidays last fall, there were some highs in the 20s but nothing compared to the year before, she said. 
"I can tell you from my own experience, having recently been traveling around the country, that it's business as usual," Malkas said. "I'm  seeing packed planes and people not wearing masks."
Plus, she noted, a large percentage of people are vaccinated and boosted and there are now treatments for the illness. 
The committee agreed that, three years after the start of the pandemic, it was ti
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