Alief ISD elementary school schools. Photo courtesy Alief ISD.

The Department of Education announced a resource that outlines how the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds can help schools, colleges and universities improve the indoor air quality to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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This is part of the Department’s broader efforts to support schools in preparation of in-person learning this fall. The resource details how to invest ARP funds to test, maintain, repair, replace and/or upgrade the systems in school facilities.

“Protecting our schools and communities from the spread of COVID-19 is the first step in bringing more students back to in-person learning and reemerging from this crisis even stronger than we were before,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona. “With the American Rescue Plan, schools and districts now have access to unprecedented resources that will enable them to ensure proper ventilation and maintain healthy learning and working environments. At the Department, we are committed to helping communities identify how to use these resources quickly and effectively as they prepare to welcome all students back to in-person learning this fall.”

According to a report from the Texas Education Agency (TEA), improving school indoor air quality decreases respiratory-related infection rates and positively impacts student attendance. This includes reducing the severity of asthma symptoms, respiratory illnesses (common cold, flu, etc.) and COVID-19.

Many Houston public schools are gearing up for the school year amidst the concerns of the highly contagious delta variant spreading across Texas. 

Alief ISD spokesperson, Craig Eichhron told the Defender that the health and safety of students and staff is their first priority.  

“In light of the rising COVID-19 cases in the Houston area and across the country, Alief ISD will continue to encourage staff and parents of students 12 years and older to get the free vaccine. Unfortunately, since Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order (GA-36) renders school districts powerless in mandating universal mask wearing while in schools, we can only encourage everyone to do their part in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks,” he said.

“The district’s additional cleaning and safety protocols & procedures will continue. All learning will be in-person due to the state legislature’s failure to pass a virtual learning bill. The district will continue to host vaccination clinics to increase access to the vaccine for those who are eligible.” 

The infrastructure proposal is part of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda to equip schools so they are safe and healthy places of learning, energy efficient and have the technology and labs students need to prepare for jobs in tomorrow’s economy.