Grand Island Public Schools hopes to remove mold, COVID-19 and other viruses from the air at its buildings through newly installed air purifying devices.
Dan Petsch, GIPS director of buildings and grounds, said Jerry’s Sheet Metal began installing Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization devices at the district’s 23 buildings, and future sites such as the new Early Learning Center in the former Shopko building and the former Principal building, on Dec. 7. The installations are expected to be completed by the end of spring break on March 12.
Chief Financial Officer Virgil Harden said the devices release billions of ions into the air stream via the building’s HVAC system, which then neutralizes harmful molecules in the air.
“If one of those billions of ions hits a molecule that is something we do not want, like a mold spore or a virus, it doesn’t kill it, but it makes it inert,” Harden said. “It takes it out of balance and makes it so that it doesn’t do bad stuff. So what that does for us is it takes care of the indoor air quality issues in that mold cannot live if it is constantly attacked with these ions.”
He said the Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization device is an additional device that is put onto a building’s existing HVAC system and is activated via its air flow.
“It is not like some big, huge box or something. It is the size of modern desktop phone or something,” Harden said. “It sits there, has some lights, is plugged in, works off the juice from the HVAC system and does its job.”
Petsch said once the device is installed, nothing needs to be done to get it to work.
“It runs 24/7, all the time and the air just carries the ions through the building,” he said.
“With these things you install them, put them on and walk away,” said Chris Klassen, a service technician with Jerry’s Sheet Metal who installed the device Monday morning at Starr Elementary.
The total cost of the air purifying devices for the school district is $1.4 million, which Harden said will be paid by extending the district’s 3-cent levy on the qualified fund.
Petsch said the devices have a 10-year life span.
Harden said that when GIPS dealt with mold in the 200 wing at Grand Island Senior High in August 2019, it installed UVC lights to improve the air quality. However, the lights were costly and the bulbs only lasted one year, meaning they needed to be replaced on a routine basis, costing the district time and money.
This past April or May, he said, the ESU 10 cooperative purchasing council sent out a news blast about the Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization devices, which intrigued GIPS.
“It was the answer we had been waiting for,” Harden said. “So we have been working on it ever since, saying this is what the district standard will be.”
He said that every building the district owns will have at least one purifying device installed there. The number of devices installed at each building depends on its size.
“It is every single square foot where people are normally occupying the space in the normal course of us doing business,” Harden said. “So classrooms, hallways, gymnasiums, locker rooms and offices — places where people normally conduct school — will be the spaces that will be treated with these ionization products.”
Petsch said the Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization devices will help make learning environments within GIPS safer for students and staff members, not just during the coronavirus pandemic, but “in a flu or cold world” as well.