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'The mission is to create a safe environment for kids' | HEPA filters and UVC lights used to reopen DC Public Schools safely

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser expects all 50,000 DC Public School students to return to school buildings in the fall.

WASHINGTON — As more COVID-19 restrictions get lifted it almost feels like normal. But getting back to normal for parents means children back in school, full time.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser expects all 50,000 DC Public School students to return to school buildings in the fall.

Patrick Davis, DPCS Chief Operating Officer, invited WUSA9 on a tour of Dunbar High School to talk about the safety upgrades made to prepare for full capacity classrooms.

“It’s been a fluid year,” said Davis who is in charge of the system’s 110 building, “It certainly hasn’t been easy, but the end mission and target is to create a safe environment for kids.” 

Davis and his team have been working to upgrade schools since day one of the pandemic. The first COVID upgrade to be installed were HVAC systems that circulate outside air into the building, even those, he said that are older and have not been modernized. 

“Every single school got a specific report and plan,” explained Davis, “so for the schools that don’t have an upgraded HVAC system we installed portable HEPA filters.”

Just like sanitizer and socially distant desks, the hum of HEPA filters is a staple in classrooms. Schools are operating with updated safety guidelines of 3 feet distance between desks.

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Davis said most classes will still be able to safely accommodate a full roster of students. 

“Schools have done an amazing job with their custodial staff and they’ve done really good work and honestly we wouldn’t be here without them,” said Davis.

Ultraviolent technology can also be found in every DCPS bathroom in newly installed overhead lights.

“It brings air through and it goes through the UVC light kit,” explained Davis as he pointed to the light in the bathroom ceiling. “basically, the light touches the virus or any bacteria and its likely to kill any bacteria or virus there.”

There’s even a HEPA filter inside the light, for good measure. 

The upgrades cost $24 Million, but with a huge injection of federal funds, Davis said it should have no impact on school budgets and resources. 

DCPS is also investing $9 Million for outdoor learning in the fall. 

School leaders recognize getting children back in the building means convincing families the schools are safe. So, they’re working on ways to get families, specifically in hardest-hit Wards 7 and 8, to tour the buildings and see the changes for themselves. 

Davis said the tours will likely happen in the next month or so.

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