At its meeting last week, the Santa Monica Democratic Club passed a resolution (link) that urged SMMUSD to immediately seek grants to afford to upgrade the HVAC units and air filters used in SMMUSD classrooms. Over the summer, the district switched back to the filters it used pre-pandemic citing the cost of maintaining its air circulation system as the larger filters cause more frequent breakdowns, estimated at $310,000. For full coverage of the debate on the air filters, click here.
“A group of district parents who are all Club members reached out to us for help with this important issue, and we were glad to help give it more visibility with this resolution,” wrote Santa Monica Democratic Club president Jon Katz.
“In the end, we were able to pass a resolution that addressed the parents’ concerns while also recognizing the work the district has done to comply with state law. We are confident that raising this issue with the Club helped to nudge the district along to finally apply for the CalSHAPE grant to receive the necessary funding to make these improvements to air filtration in the classrooms.”
Debate at the Dem. Club meeting was intense given that it followed the club’s endorsement vote for the March election. SMMUSD’s Chief Operations Officer Carey Upton presented on behalf of the District while Deanne Ozaki, who authored the original motion that was debated, presented on behalf of advocates arguing for cleaner air.
Ozaki’s motion included language that called for SMMUSD to immediately reinstall the thicker MERV-13 filters, language that was removed in the final amendment. Ozaki expressed frustration not just with the final resolution, but also that Upton stated that should the district go forward with a change in filters, the $310,000 annual cost would necessitate laying a small number of teachers.
“With an annual budget of over $132.5 million for the current fiscal year, if the District can’t figure out how to fit $300,000, the District’s likely inflated number to achieve MERV-13 filtration in all of our schools, into the budget without cutting our teachers, SMMUSD has a bigger problem than the lack of high quality indoor air (MERV-13 filtration) in our schools,” Ozaki writes.