Over 350 New York City schools inspected by ventilation experts, officials say

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza observed ventilation inspections at a Bronx school on Aug. 26, 2020. (NYC Mayor’s Office)

City teams of ventilation experts and engineers have inspected 370 school buildings over the last two days and plan to check 247 more on Thursday, city officials announced today. 

Out of those inspections, the Department of Education has final reports on the ventilation systems in 99 schools, said President and CEO of the School Construction Authority Lorraine Grillo. Out of those schools, 91 are ready to receive students while “small issues” came up at the remaining nine. 

In at least one building, an unnamed Brooklyn school, engineers reported that windows in two classrooms were nailed shut. The city pledged to fix the windows by end of day Thursday. 

On Tuesday, city officials announced that 100 teams of engineers and ventilation experts would walk through all of the city’s 1,800 public schools to inspect windows and ventilation units to ensure that schools have adequate airflow ahead of in-person classes. Inspectors will also test for CO2 levels in buildings and replaced HVAC air filters, according to Grillo. 

Inspections are scheduled to finish on Sept. 1 with all the findings to be posted online by Sept. 4. But the methods that engineers are using during their inspections came into question after photographs of ventilation experts placing a yardstick with a piece of toilet paper in front of a fan started circulating online.  The photo caused outrage among parents, teachers and some elected officials. 

But Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have repeatedly defended the merits of the “tissue test” stating that it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

 “This is something that is used widely throughout the country,” said Grillo. Indeed, CDC guidelines do suggest using tissue paper, flutter strips or ping-pong balls to measuring airflow as a part of HVAC system maintenance and repair.