Six Haverhill Schools Receive Federal Aid to Improve Air Quality; Resolves 65% of Immediate Needs

HVAC work at Haverhill Public Schools in 2020. (Courtesy photograph.)

The federal government is giving Haverhill Public Schools a boost in efforts to improve air quality.

Assistant School Superintendent Michael J. Pfifferling told School Committee members Thursday of the $1.7 million grant targeted to schools that “have a higher concentration of economically disadvantaged populations.”

“A couple of months ago we were notified of a grant opportunity from the federal government around improving ventilation and air quality. We applied for the grant and, just last week, we were notified that we were awarded this grant,” he said.

Pfifferling said the Improving Ventilation and Air Quality grant’s timing is fortuitous since school administration already approached Mayor James J. Fiorentini about the need for air quality improvements at some of the city’s schools.

“We’ve identified six schools that we need to really improve air quality ventilation systems in and through this grant and the mayor’s ARPA funds, if we get awarded some in January, we’ll be able to make a substantial dent in that need,” he said.

According to a school statement Friday, the money will be spent at the John C. Tilton lower, Bradford Elementary, Pentucket Lake, Golden Hill, Silver Hill and Dr. Paul C. Nettle Schools which, officials said, need immediate repairs. “Utilizing this grant, along with potential city ARPA funding, we anticipate the ability to address up to 65% of the immediate needs in these six schools.”

The statement added, “Historically, disadvantaged populations experience higher rates of poor health for a range of conditions, including airborne disease transmission and chronic breathing impairments such as asthma.”

At the request of Committee member Gail M. Sullivan, Pfifferling also gave an update on next year’s school budget.

“Right now, we’re already working with our principals and our department heads looking at their current budget, making sure people are in the right spots, funding is in the right areas. So, that will happen from now through December. In January, we’ll have a meeting with our principals to go over the budget process, what we need from them,” he said.

School Superintendent Margaret Marotta added all parties involved will take a hard look in mid-January at what has worked in the past year and what has not. At that point, she said, goals for the new year begin to take shape.

Sullivan said she would also like to see the School Committee begin discussing its own goals for next year to provide guidance for school administrators.

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