For the second consecutive year, Connecticut boards of education (“BOEs”) will be subject to new legislatively imposed requirements and deadlines to inspect and evaluate indoor air quality (“IAQ”) and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (“HVAC”) systems in all of their public schools. The new law (Public Act 23-167) delays the imminent January 1, 2024 deadline for HVAC inspections for one year, but also imposes a new requirement to perform IAQ inspections and evaluations annually, and requires this for all schools beginning in 2024 (not just those schools constructed or renovated after 2003).
We recently summarized the 2022 amendments that updated the prior IAQ standards set forth in CGS § 10-220(d) (“2022 amendments”), which also established new HVAC systems inspection and evaluation requirements. The 2022 amendments set a fast-approaching deadline for BOEs to prepare and submit HVAC reports for all schools by January 1, 2024. The compliance dates referenced in our prior alert are no longer applicable with the 2023 amendments.
Recognizing that BOEs faced intense cost and logistical challenges to comply with the HVAC compliance deadline, legislators modified the 2022 amendments and passed a new bill in the 2023 session. With the Governor’s recent signature, PA 23-167 takes effect July 1, 2023.
What’s changed in 2023?
- IAQ Inspections and Evaluations: IAQ inspections and evaluations must now be done annually starting on January 1, 2024 for every school. The prior law required BOEs to conduct IAQ assessments every three (3) years (and before 2022, every five (5) years).
- All school buildings are subject to IAQ inspections and evaluations: Previously, school buildings that were constructed, extended, renovated or replaced prior to January 1, 2003 were not, based on the statute’s plain language, subject to the IAQ requirements. The January 1, 2003 lookback cutoff is no longer in the statute.
- Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) IAQ Tools for Schools Program: Compliance with the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program is now required, not just preferred, for IAQ inspections and evaluations beginning on January 1, 2024.
- HVAC Deadline: The deadline for school districts to complete their initial HVAC system inspections in all schools has been pushed back from January 1, 2024, to January 1, 2025. The requirement to repeat the HVAC inspections for all schools every five (5) years remains.
- Waivers: The Department of Administrative Services (“DAS”) is authorized to issue exemptions from the new January 1, 2025 HVAC inspection deadline for a maximum of one (1) year.
The inspection may be waived if it is established that there is a lack of qualified professionals to complete the work, or the BOE has scheduled the inspection but it is for a date after January 1, 2025.
DAS may also accept alternative forms of HVAC inspections in lieu of strict compliance with the inspection and evaluation requirements of the new law, if it deems their format is equivalent to the new law’s requirements.
- Reporting forms: BOEs must utilize new standard reporting forms to conduct/report both IAQ and HVAC inspections. Districts must provide to DAS the completed forms for each school. The forms and/or reports must be made available on BOE/school websites and during a regular BOE meeting.
As of the date of this alert, DAS has not made the forms available.
- Temperature standards: PA 23-167 also mandates that the Commissioner of Public Health create standards for an ideal temperature comfort range of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit in school buildings by July 1, 2024. A wider thermal range may be permitted for gymnasiums and natatoriums. When issued, the State standard may supersede the current industry use of analogous “best practices” such as standards published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
- Begin scheduling your IAQ and HVAC inspections and evaluations now for 2023 and 2024, as qualified IAQ and HVAC professionals will be in high demand as deadlines approach, particularly during scheduled school closures.
- Proactively budget for the upcoming IAQ and HVAC inspections and progress reports.
- Evaluate supplemental funding: DAS is operating a new reimbursement grant program for public school districts to offset the cost of IAQ/HVAC assessments, with the next application window expected to open in Q3 2023.
- As needed, update applicable BOE policies, operational procedures and/or internal training.
- Plan your internal and external communications strategies with your technical and legal resources in light of the new forms and reporting requirements.