MACON, Ga. — Schools all across the United States have put social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing guidelines in place for a safer return to in-person learning.
Some are taking safety a step further by making sure they have clean air in their buildings. The Bibb County School District is one of them; they're installing ionization units in their HVAC systems.
But what does it do? Bibb Schools' executive director of capital programs, Sam Kitchens, explains how their ionization systems work.
"This device is actually is a patented technology that will actually clean the air and kill the virus as the air conditioners run in the school system," said Kitchens.
Simply put, they're supposed to kill viruses in the air.
"Basically it puts out positive and negative ions into the airstream, so when you hook one of these to your air conditioning system, the air pulls through the air conditioner back out into the space. This produces the positive and negative ions from here and as this flows through the airstream, it picks up the dust particles," he said.
Those dust particles are where the mole spores, allergens and viruses live. The ions take the hydrogen away, which kills them.
"As the dust particles clump together to try to survive, it makes them larger so that you can capture them in a filter in an air conditioner easier. On the maintenance side, it keeps your coals cleaner," he said. "It keeps you from having to maintain the units as much, but as they try to survive, and it robs them of hydrogen and that's what actually kills the virus in the airstream."
Every air conditioner in a Bibb school building has an ionization unit.
That's close to 2,000 units across the district.
"This is just another layer of protection for our students to return to in-person learning, so to be able to do that, we need devices like this so that we are reducing the potential spread in the school system," said Kitchens.
He says it takes about an hour to filter out the room with clean air. They turn them on an hour before the students get on campus.
A third party lab testing company says 99.9% of the virus is killed through the ionization units. The company that patented and installed these units recorded the ion levels of the classrooms before the devices were installed.
They'll then come back in six months to check the levels and give the district a report on how well it's working.
Between purchasing the ionization devices and installing them, it cost the school system about $1,046,000 out of its COVID-19 support funds.