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Indoor Air Quality Program Management for Boston Public Schools

Creating a Safe Learning Environment


Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is an essential component of cultivating a healthy and productive environment in any school. Because children can spend upwards of 10 hours a day in the classroom, exposure to poor IAQ levels at school poses a significant health risk. Children can be exposed to IAQ levels that are linked to increased asthma exacerbations, absences and lower learning outcomes. While many schools have invested in upgrades to their HVAC systems to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, little research has focused on how those upgrades impact IAQ. To ensure the well-being of their students and faculty, Boston Public Schools (BPS) has implemented an IAQ management program based on standards from the US EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools, and a layered risk reduction approach. As part of this effort, BPS started the Indoor Air Quality Sensors Initiative to more improve IAQ and ventilation, educate about IAQ measures and develop community agency, collaboration and trust around BPS schools’ environmental health.


In July 2021, TRC and SGS Galson began installing and calibrating around 4,300 IAQ sensors and 135 Outdoor Air Quality (OAQ) sensors across 132 buildings in the BPS district. In addition to the installation and calibration of these sensors, TRC’s Mobile Data Solutions platform was utilized to develop a custom system to maintain all records related to installation, calibration, and repairs for the units. TRC has conducted calibrations of the sensors in the summers of 2022 and 2023. By installing IAQ and OAQ sensors throughout the school district, TRC enabled SGS Galson to monitor temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, as well as fine particulate matter concentrations (PM2.5 and PM10) present in the air.


The hourly average PM2.5 was greater in schools that lacked central HVAC compared to schools with a central HVAC system. Similarly, CO2 concentrations in schools with HVAC were significantly lower compared to schools without it. By analyzing IAQ data and taking appropriate measures when IAQ levels are unusually high, BPS can continue to provide its students and faculty with a safe learning environment.

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