More than 7,000 students at a New Jersey school district were supposed to go back to class next month but now they're going to have to wait a few months longer after officials discovered that new air filters were actually not installed.
In a letter addressed to the South Orange-Maplewood School District on Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ronald G. Taylor said the district will need to assess and update as many as 1,000 filters in all classrooms after the district's Facilities Department lead falsely reported that ventilation boxes in each classroom had been updated with filters with a Merv 16 rating.
In-person schooling that was set to resume in November is now pushed to restart again on Jan. 19, Taylor said, or after all the filters are upgraded.
The superintendent did not go into details about the Facilities Department lead but said that the air filter vendor was not even contacted until after verification paperwork that said the new units were installed was submitted to the District.
While the state of New Jersey did not impose new air filters requirements on school buildings as a result of COVID-19, though it does recommend further enhancements, the replacement of South Orange-Maplewood's HVAC systems was a part of a planned district-wide improvement project. But now, due to the delay and high demands for air filters, the school district said it's going to take six to eight weeks more to get the work done.
Poor indoor air quality is one of the most commonly reported complaints in New Jersey public buildings, according to the state.
On the bright side of the delayed reopening, Taylor said it will give faculties more time to prepare to safely welcome back students.
"Given the upcoming holidays and the difficulties many are facing (and will face due to staff quarantines), this date also allows for personal quarantining for any in our school community who travel for the winter break without the need for substitutes and the accompanying disruption to educational services," Taylor wrote.