Unit 5 air purification system aims to slow the spread of COVID
The Unit 5 school board heard a report on Wednesday detailing how an air purification system installed in buildings in the district is part of Unit 5’s pandemic mitigation strategy.
The district used federal COVID relief funds to purchase the new system that uses bipolar ionization.
Also at the meeting, the board unanimously approved a 4% raise for Superintendent Kristen Weikle, on a 4-year contract, bringing her annual base salary to $ 192,400. The board also approved its annual report on salaries and benefits for Unit 5 administrators and certified teachers; and its 2020-2021 IMRF Compensation and Benefits Report.
As part of Unit 5’s Operations Manager Joe Adelman’s Facility Improvement Report, he brought Dan Newkirk, Director of Energy Engineering at Alpha Controls and Services, to the podium.
Unit 5 has been working with the Rockford-based company since 2016 on improving energy efficiency in buildings in the neighborhood; the company oversaw the installation of the bipolar ionization system. Newkirk said the district has achieved $ 2.3 million in energy savings since the partnership began, and he sees the opportunity to do more. He noted that some of those savings were redirected to rehabilitate the track at Kingsley Junior High School.
He also discussed a proposed model that will increase energy savings from $ 700,000 per year to $ 975,000 per year.
The new system aims to help reduce the spread of infectious diseases, such as the virus that causes COVID-19, Newkirk said. The system generates positively and negatively charged particles to clean the air in indoor spaces.
Bipolar ionization is an emerging technology, and Newkirk said the Global Plasma Solutions system used in Unit 5 has the advantage of being integrated into the district’s existing HVAC system. It should have a lifespan of 10 years, he said, adding that one of the advantages of the selected version is that it uses ozone-free ionizers. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that any bipolar ionization system meet this ozone standard certification.
Newkirk said using the integrated system results in an expected annual operating cost of $ 3,200 per year, compared to a stand-alone version which costs around $ 35,000 per year.
As part of his presentation, Newkirk said the system, also known as bipolar needle ionization, disperses ions and cleans the air of more than 30 pathogens, including COVID-19, MRSA, staph, tuberculosis, mold, bird flu and swine flu. Alpha Services conducted studies throughout the district to ensure effectiveness, he said.
Earlier, Adelman described several energy saving projects the district worked on throughout 2021. These include the installation of a chiller at Normal Community West High School and geothermal wells at Chiddix Junior. High School. Previously, similar work was done at Kingsley and Parkside High Schools.
In other matters, counsel:
- Heard public comments, all nine in reference to Governor JB Pritzker’s mandate that school employees either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly for the virus. Six people praised the district’s COVID mitigation requirements and other measures; while three people spoke against the rules.
- Honored former Normal Community High School football coach Dick Tharp, who passed away on Tuesday, just days after attending Friday’s ceremony named after the NCHS football field. He taught and coached at Normal High School, then the only high school in the district, from 1968 to 1988 and won 158 victories – the most in Unit 5 history. He was 90 years old.