Weslaco ISD approves $1.7 million air filtration purchase

WESLACO — Trustees of the Weslaco Independent School District approved the purchase of over a million-and-a-half dollars worth of air filtration units meant to provide an extra barrier against COVID-19 transmission.

The 1,100 high-efficiency particulate air filtration units the district bought cost $1,590 a piece, making the overall cost of the units $1.749 million.

“These units will provide an extra blanket of safety for our students and staff,” Executive Director of Facilities/Athletics Oscar Riojas wrote in a statement from the district. “We are combating the COVID-19 virus right now, but this will help with the flu season and allergies, with anything and everything that is aerosolized.”

The units, purchased from Texas Air Products of McAllen Texas, are scheduled to be delivered in four instalments from April to July.

“We would have to work on an equitable way to deliver them across the campuses that we have,” Superintendent Priscilla Canales said Friday before the board approved the purchase. “There are some factors that we could look at, we do have data on how many kids are in teachers’ classrooms. The numbers are growing, we’ve been at about 2,300 most of this week.”

Weslaco ISD is not the first Rio Grande Valley district to turn to air purification systems as a safeguard against the coronavirus. McAllen Independent School District’s board of trustees greenlit a proposal to spend over half-a-million dollars on bipolar ionization air purifiers earlier this month, although that decision faced some board criticism.

In contrast, Weslaco ISD approved their filtration purchase unanimously. HVAC Director Americo Garza said the district intentionally steered away from purchasing ionization-based units and added that noise levels were one of the factors the district chose in considering proposals.

“Also, we’re looking at sound levels, which is the primary concern as far as noise level in the classroom, to make sure that they don’t disrupt the instruction and that the teachers are able to use them,” he said Friday.