OLD LYME — On Tuesday morning, April 18, State Senator Martha Marx (D-New London), whose district includes Old Lyme, and State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex), whose district includes Lyme, joined Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Region 18 Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser, and Lyme and Old Lyme local leaders at Center School in Old Lyme to celebrate the state’s approved release of $12.009 million in grant funding to support improved air quality in Lyme-Old Lyme (LOL) schools.
Region 18 Schools, located in Lyme and Old Lyme, will receive three grants, each supporting air quality improvements and upgrades in local schools, through the HVAC Indoor Air Quality Grant Program for Public Schools. Lyme Consolidated School will receive $3.051 million, Center School $2.719 million and LOL Middle School $6.24 million.
These funds can be used to replace, upgrade, or repair boilers and other heating and ventilation components; replacing controls and technology systems related to HVAC operations; installing or upgrading air conditioning or ventilation systems; and other similar work approved by the Department of Administrative Services.
“It is very exciting that Region 18 is one of the first districts to get this grant funding,” said Sen. Marx. “I still remember the stories of the challenges educators and parents faced and fought through during COVID, and that hard work cannot be forgotten. So let’s try and do this for a lot of schools and bring positive change to our classrooms. The kids, educators and staff deserve this; everyone deserves a safe working and learning environment,”
“We learned firsthand through the school of hard knocks the importance of air quality,” said Sen. Needleman. “It was a hard way to learn, but I’m glad we’re on track, and I think we need to upgrade all of our schools throughout the state to make sure our kids and our teachers have a safe environment to work and learn.”
“This is a major investment in school infrastructure, in the health of our children and students and in the health of our teachers and staff who work there,” said Lt. Gov. Bysiewicz. “This is a really big and important investment. It’s also an investment in job creation; Our friends in the building trades such as plumbers and pipefitters will be on site working at schools across our state. There will be a lot of folks in Lyme and Old Lyme doing this important work.”
“We hope to begin construction on this project in the next several months and complete it within the next year or two,” said Superintendent Neviaser. “It is not just for one school but for four schools, and we’re really appreciative of all the hard work already put into it. We look forward to completing this project on time and under budget.”
In 2022, the General Assembly voted to create the Indoor Air Quality Grant Program, as part of an effort to improve ventilation and air conditions in schools statewide. Local and regional boards of education and regional education service centers can use those funds to make valuable improvements. Municipalities are responsible to provide matching grants to fund work not covered by grants.
Eligible schools and districts are those found to have the greatest need for indoor air quality improvements; factors considered include school HVAC system age, air quality issues at the school and overall school building age and condition.
Along with creating that program, the state additionally invested in a pipeline training system for HVAC work and strict standards for inspection and evaluation of HVAC on an accelerated schedule compared to previous state law.
In November 2022, Old Lyme voters approved $57.5 million in bonding for renovations and updates to local schools, with projects including updates to HVAC, air conditioning and ventilation at four Lyme regional schools that had last been renovated roughly two decades prior.
In past interviews, Neviaser said these projects included applying for the state grant program for air quality improvements as a significant issue was their age; some Region 18 schools have systems dating back to the 1960s, he said.
Editor’s Note: This article is based on a press release issued by the Press Office of Senators Marx and Needleman.