The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is launching a $29.6 million program to distribute more than 60,000 HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) purifiers to Illinois schools to help reduce the transmission of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
IDPH is coordinating the program with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The program is funded by the CDC through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and is targeted for school districts that serve lower income communities and counties that have elevated air pollution counts.
IDPH estimates almost 3,000 schools will be eligible for the program, covering 68 percent of school districts in the state. It will cover schools throughout the state, including Cook County, with the exception of Chicago, which has received a separate federal grant.
“There is nothing more important to me than keeping Illinoisans safe and healthy — especially when it comes to our youth,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “We know that our children need to stay healthy and study in classrooms that are well-ventilated in order to thrive and succeed. Thanks to this $30 million investment, schoolchildren will experience cleaner air — preventing illness and absenteeism, while improving our children’s ability to think and learn.”
“I have devoted much of my career to protecting and promoting the health of children,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra, who is a pediatrician. “Data over these last three years have shown us the critical importance of good ventilation to keep children and adults safe from respiratory illnesses. These HEPA air purifiers are a significant investment in our children, and I am very excited that the State of Illinois can make this impact. They will keep kids healthy and in school, ensuring more opportunities for learning and success for years to come.”
“Every Illinois student deserves a safe, healthy learning environment regardless of zip code or income level,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Sanders. “Improving classroom ventilation with air purifiers is a proven method we can use to reduce the transmission of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, the flu, and RSV, and, at the same time, reduce absences related to illness. A child’s health and attendance is inextricably tied to their ability to learn, and I’m pleased the State is making this vital investment.”
IDPH is launching an enrollment process in coordination with ISBE through which schools can submit orders for portable HEPA air purifiers. The administrators of eligible school districts will be contacted directly with information about how many purifiers that their districts are eligible to receive. The portable air purifiers will be delivered to school districts in the coming months. Schools will generally be eligible for one small air filter unit for each 20 students in a school, with a limited number of larger units for districts with more than 1,000 students.
Questions from school administrators should be directed to the IDPH Air Purifier Project Inbox at DPH.AirPurify@illinois.gov.
Studies show that cleaner air can reduce absentee rates, and improve students’ abilities to think, learn, read and solve math problems.
Last year IDPH issued ventilation guidance to educate the community on the impact of ventilation systems and to provide information about low cost and DIY interventions for ventilation upgrades.