Help us fund our new ventilation system!
Open Fields is a small independent school which has been in operation since 1971, in a building built around 1840 on Thetford Hill in Vermont. We currently operate with a staff of three teachers and one very part-time director. We have no buildings and grounds staff, no maintenance crew, a once-weekly cleaning person, and a small board of directors. Extraordinary and time-consuming measures by staff (cleaning, hand-sanitation, masking, materials rotation, and ad-hoc ventilation measures, including installing fans in the windows and opening doors & windows periodically year-round) kept us from having COVID-19 spread from student to student over the three years of the pandemic. While we had some cases among families, we never had, to our knowledge, cases in two families simultaneously. We’re quite proud of that record.
During the pandemic, there was a large amount of money available to schools and other organizations to improve ventilation in buildings. As a very small organization, with limited resources and limited time and energy, we were unable to take advantage of the various pandemic relief programs which might have helped to pay for proper ventilation in an old school building. We’re tired of subjecting our students (and ourselves) to bracing Vermont winter temperatures in order to keep the indoor air quality acceptable year-round.
Our heating oil usage during the pandemic-era school years (2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23) went up 12% from the three previous school years; our electricity usage increased 20% over the same period. And we were colder than ever!
We've installed two energy-recovery ventilation units and appropriate ducting to provide proper ventilation to our building. It was a little complicated due to the age of the building, but we hope to be able to improve our energy efficiency while increasing the ventilation over our ad-hoc (and effective, if not-terribly-efficient) solutions. The total cost for installation of the new system was about $60,000 – about 40% of our annual operating budget – and we’re looking for your help!