Meyers Pool Giveaway and Uproven HVAC Technology | Susan L. Miller

The Meyers Pool and Unproven HVAV Air Disinfection Technology

$17 Million to Give Arvada a Big Gift: The Meyers Pool

I was the only board member who voted against Meyers Pool, in which Jeffco will take $17m (or more, after cost overruns) out of classrooms across the district to build a new pool for the City of Arvada. And Jeffco Schools will have no ownership interest in the pool. You read that right. In essence, the board voted to use the district's balance sheet to give Arvada a gift. I warned that this sets a precedent for the future, in which every other city and Recreation District will expect Jeffco to help finance their new athletic facilities too. Time will tell whether I'm right about this. But what I am am right about today is the money coming out of Jeffco classrooms is money that won't be available for recovering our students' learning losses.

$8 Million for Adding Unproven In-Line UVC Disinfection Technology to HVAC Systems

I was the only board member who voted against spending $8 million to add UVC light disinfection technology to some schools' HVAC systems. In line with my facilities work with school districts across the nation, I have written extensively about indoor air quality. For example, in October, 2020, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute published my article, "Are We Ready to Close Schools' Windows?" Based on the evidence, I have been a strong advocate of improving school buildings' ventilation and filtration systems as the most effective means of lifting the risk of COVID infection.

In June 2021, I published "Should We Force Children to Wear Masks Again When Schools Reopen? A Risk Analysis", which weighted the incremental infection risk reduction benefits of various types of masking (cloth, surgical, and N95 respirators) after improvements to ventilation and filtration systems had been implemented. In this article, I also raised doubts about both the infection reduction benefits and the cost-effectiveness of the in-line HVAC UVC light disinfection systems that many vendors have been trying to sell to school districts, based on claims not supported by high quality evidence.

In October 2021, I published a longer briefing for school boards around the country on the many uncertainties still associated with in-line HVAC UVC disinfection technology: "Adding Ultraviolet Disinfection Systems to Schools’ COVID Defenses: A Background Briefing." It covers scientific, engineering, operational, safety, and financial uncertainties associated with the use of of UVC technology for in-line virus disinfection in HVAC systems' airflow. I stressed that, "As the FDA has stated, “the effectiveness of UVC lamps in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus is unknown because there is limited published data about the wavelength, dose, and duration of UVC radiation required to inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus (FDA publication, “UV Lights and Lamps: Ultraviolet-C Radiation, Disinfection, and Coronavirus”)…Given the considerable uncertainties that still surround the use of UVC radiation to protect against COVID infections, the risk of a school district making a disappointing investment in this technology is still high."

The questions I raised about the effectiveness of UVC in-line HVAC were later confirmed in this independent lab test comparison of UVC with various HVAC filtration levels. It found that, "UVC viral deactivation is comparable to a MERV-8 filter, approximately 20% reduction." Greater reduction can be achieved by increasing the filters used in schools' HVAC systems to MERV 10 or higher. Moreover, "when ventilation is included in the analysis, it can be quickly determined from basic arithmetic that the impact of UVC technology is negligible. Although it may offer approximately a 20% reduction in viral deactivation when coupled with lower MERV rated filtration, this impacts would be further reduced when taking into account dilution of the airstream with outdoor air." The analysis concluded that, "UVC technology should not be installed in Roof Top HVAC equipment due to high initial cost and lack of substantial deactivation of virus."

Despite all this evidence, Jeffco is still apparently going ahead with the installation of unproven and cost ineffective UVC disinfection technology in the HVAC systems of a number of schools, some of which are likely to be closed. It is also doing this without contracting with an outside testing service to verify the actual effectiveness of the technology. Instead, we will apparently just have to take either the vendor's or the Jeffco facilities' team's word for it. In the meantime, we will have $8 million less to spend on tutoring to recover our students' COVID learning losses.

Update: 12October2022: Jeffco management has decided to not go ahead with its proposed $8 million use of ESSER funds for the UVC project, and will instead spend the money on new math curriculum and more tutoring to recover students learning losses.

That's a big win for Jeffco's parents, children, and taxpayers.