SB 835 Public Schools – HVAC Systems and Carbon Dioxide Monitor – Reporting Requirements
BILL: SB 835
TITLE: Public Schools – Heating, Ventilation, and Air–Conditioning Systems and
Carbon Dioxide Monitors – Monitoring and Reporting Requirements
DATE: March 7, 2023
COMMITTEE: Education, Energy, and the Environment
CONTACT: Mary Pat Fannon, Executive Director, PSSAM
The Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland (PSSAM), on behalf of all twenty-four public school superintendents, opposes Senate Bill 835.
Senate Bill 835 would require the Interagency Commission on School Construction (IAC) to complete a statewide heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system assessment of all public school facilities by 2025. Following the assessment, IAC would be required to develop uniform HVAC standards and incorporate them into existing facility sufficiency standards. Furthermore, local school systems would be required to develop and implement plans for corrective actions in response to the assessment, as well as install a carbon dioxide monitor in every public school classroom.
While PSSAM supports the establishment and maintenance of safe and conducive learning environments, this bill would cause local school system expenditures to increase by tens of millions of dollars statewide in order to remediate HVAC deficiencies and install carbon dioxide detectors in every classroom. The IAC estimates that a statewide HVAC assessment of indoor air quality in all 1,400 public schools would cost as much as $75 million, plus the cost of additional staff, as well as significantly affect the normal operations of each public school system for significant periods of time.
Additionally, the cost of any required remediation efforts required under this bill would be taken on solely by each individual school system. While it is unclear how many schools would be required to complete remediation fixes to existing HVAC systems, it is estimated that the average cost to replace a single system can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is important to note that any imposed unfunded mandate of this significant magnitude would severely constrain the total available funds used to support other educational priorities in our school systems.
Maryland’s superintendents champion the devotion of staff time and resources to provide healthy school environment, including addressing indoor air quality issues. Risk managers and facility maintenance staff recognize the need for a comprehensive preventative management strategy, including educating and training staff, and providing them with the maintenance budgets to support these strategies. Routine monitoring coupled with prompt responses to problems when they do occur can avoid the emergence of more serious and costly problems.
Again, PSSAM agrees that indoor air quality in public schools is a very important health issue. However, PSSAM would prefer to focus on securing sufficient state and local funding for school construction and maintenance programs, and promoting the accepted best practices described above, rather than implementing a costly and overreaching assessment of all HVAC systems.
For these reasons, PSSAM opposes Senate Bill 835 and requests an unfavorable report.