Horry County Schools spends $7 million to install new air purification systems

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 5:29 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Horry County Schools is working on a way to keep the coronavirus out of its hallways and classrooms.

The school district is installing ionizations systems that will purify the air in classrooms and hallways.

HCS received $125 million from the federal government to try and make the schools coronavirus-free when students come back. That all starts somewhere you can’t see: in the air vents.

“We always say the most expensive part of any building is above the ceiling where people cannot see,” said HCS spokesperson Lisa Bourcier. “That’s where all of the systems lie. These bipolar ionization systems, which are air purification systems will reside in the duct work in the inner units.”

The school district spent $7 million on 7,000 bipolar ionization units that will go into 54 different schools and facilities.

The ionizers pump ions into the air, which change the polarization of bacteria, viruses, dust and pollen particles so they clump together. Once they clump, it’s easier for them to get caught by the filters in the HVAC systems.

HCS has been addressing air quality for several years after St. James Elementary ran into an issue with mold in 2019.

“Indoor air quality is an issue that’s been around for years, but having these extra funds helps us move these process and projects faster than what we normally could’ve,” said Bourcier. “Definitely facility upgrades and indoor air quality improvements. Not only to help with COVID, but everything else, filtering out the air to make sure we have a clean breathing environment.”

In 2019, the district created teams to check the air quality at each school to make sure they stay at acceptable levels.

Those teams are playing a role now as the ionization units begin to be installed.

“What we’ve done to prioritize some of these schools is look at some of the complaints we have and identify those schools first,” said Bourcier. “Those are the ones we’re looking to complete first.”

The school district plans to have them installed in 23 locations by the end of the summer, then have the remaining 31 schools and facilities finished by August 2022.

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