Cleaner air headed to classrooms all across Erie County

"Anything we can do to make schools safer"
Posted at 6:10 PM, Apr 06, 2022

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has a plan to improve the air quality against COVID in classrooms.

The county executive says he is planning to buy air purifiers for all public, private, and charter school classrooms across the county.

poloncarztweet .jpg
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's tweet.

The purchase is expected to be made at Austin Air in Buffalo, where the units are manufactured.

Austin Air employees were working hard along this production line Wednesday.

It is where they assemble portable air filtration units that help stop the COVID virus from spreading.

“But it also is great because it can capture a number of other contaminants,” explained Lauren McMillan, president, Austin Air.

The county executive's office confirmed with me that 11,000 units will be purchased from Austin Air for schools.

Lauren McMillan, president, Austin Air.

“The larger districts will get them directly from us and then I believe for the smaller districts, they will actually go to a distribution center that will be delivered by the county,” remarked McMillan.

McMillan says they are working to fulfill the order.

“We have several thousand in stock, but we're working every day — we have been since the onset of the pandemic — so we're prepared to start to ship these as soon as like next week,” said McMillan.

The filters are designed to last up to five years and are 60-square feet of medical-grade HEPA to keep the air clean.

Filters inserted into unit at Austin Air.

The county will pay for the air filtration units with federal COVID funding and is expected to pay between $5 to $6 million.

“The teachers were excited about the good news,” declared Michael Antonelli, principal, Sidway Elementary, Grand Island. “Anything we can do to make schools safer is better for our kids and our families.”

The Grand Island Central School District already purchased the same units for its school buildings during the pandemic.

sidway classroom.jpg
Air unit is inside this pre-k class at Sidway Elementary.

The unit is helping to 'clear the air' inside a pre-k classroom at Sidway.

“So we stayed pretty healthy here — really through the pandemic and even now post-masks as well,” Antonelli noted.

“This unit does capture COVID, so that just provides, I think, a layer of comfort,” replied Brian Graham, superintendent, Grand Island Schools.

Superintendent Graham says his district spent about $80,000 for the air units, so when he learned the county will now be buying them for all schools, he was thrilled.

grandisland super.jpg
Brian Graham, superintendent, Grand Island Schools.

“Every classroom would have one? Buckley asked. “Yeah — really remarkable,” responded Graham. “I can't think of a better opportunity to make sure that the air is filtered and in every classroom and with two for us — it’s going to be wonderful."

A spokesman for the county executive's office tells me Poloncarz will have more details on this plan at Thursday's state of the county address.