COVID-19 School Readiness
Learn how to employ the Division of the State Architect (DSA) services and find other resources that prepare public schools for re-opening.
DSA is committed to helping California public schools prepare to re-open under the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) COVID-19 requirements. DSA is prioritizing plan reviews for school districts in need of rapid placement of new relocatable buildings or tent structures or alterations to existing school buildings or structures, installation of permanent buildings or structures using DSA-approved pre check (PC) plans, or installation of temporary sanitation-related amenities such as hand washing stations.
The physical environment is not the only way DSA can help schools prepare. Proper airflow in classrooms is critical to mitigation of virus spread See below for information concerning classroom indoor air quality.
The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an unanticipated emergency and DSA will make every effort to prioritize plan review of emergency projects needed for schools to reopen safely.
To start, please review bulletin BU 20-01: DSA Assistance During the COVID-19 Pandemic for Emergency School Facilities. Once the project is ready to be moved forward, clients should call the general information or main phone line of the DSA Regional Office serving the county in which the school is located. Please refer to the map on the Contact Us webpage and let the DSA staff member know that you have a COVID-19-related construction project. Based on the type of project for the school site, the DSA staff member will advise you on the next steps. We highly recommend scheduling a pre-application meeting. These meetings are not for the review of plans, but they are to discuss the project in more detail.
Clients considering installing relocatable buildings as part of their COVID-19 school readiness plan can find pre-approved structures on the Approved Pre-Check (PC) Designs webpage. The list includes the manufacturers’ relocatable building design plans that may be incorporated by school districts in preparation of a site-specific project. Using PCs expedites the project, as DSA plan review and approval can take place at an over-the-counter (OTC) appointment. OTC appointments are also scheduled through the general information phone line of the DSA Regional Office serving the county in which the school is located.
Pre-application meeting request forms and additional information about submitting a project to DSA is located on the Start Construction Project by Submitting Plans for Review webpage.
Installing Cargo Container Laboratory Pods for COVID-19 Testing
School districts may install cargo containers converted to laboratory units (pods) for the purpose of COVID-19 testing on public school campuses under their own authority. Additionally, school districts are not required to submit the design to DSA for review and approval provided they are installed in compliance with the following listed on Interpretation of Regulations, IR A-34: Cargo Containers Used as Laboratory Units. DSA sees the value of providing school districts the ability to place these units on their campus in order to safely return students and faculty to campuses across the state.
Maintaining optimal indoor air quality of classrooms is critical to preventing virus transmission. As a part of code compliance, California’s public K–12 schools and community colleges are already required to meet certain air quality requirements. School districts ensure that the HVAC equipment continues to meet the code requirements post construction through on-going maintenance and periodic testing.
For school districts with immediate construction needs related to COVID-19, HVAC replacement projects that do not require structural support improvements do not require DSA plan review but are still subject to oversight by a DSA-certified Project Inspector (PI) and installation and acceptance tests are required to be performed in order to ensure that air quality meets the standards in the Energy Code. Newly constructed buildings are subject to DSA plan review, which includes PI oversight and the requirements for installation and acceptance test requirements.
The code requirements addressing indoor air quality are published in the California Mechanical Code, the California Energy Code, and the California Green Building Standards Code, if applicable. Questions on code interpretations should be directed to the respective rulemaking authority or agency. DSA is the contact for indoor air quality regulations for public schools in CALGreen. Contact the California Energy Commission with questions regarding the Energy Code. Contact the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) with questions regarding the Mechanical Code. Projects under the 2019 California codes will required the installation of Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13 filters which are superior to older filters in mitigating disease transmission. For existing systems, please consult your HVAC manufacturer to ensure that MERV 13 filters will work with your present system prior to installation.
The California Energy Commission has a hotline for questions regarding the Building Energy Efficiency Standards for the installation and acceptance tests required by Title 24. They can be reached toll-free in California at (800) 772-3300 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. School districts with questions on on-going maintenance are encouraged to read the through the resources linked below, specifically the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS).
Division of the State Architect (DSA)
California Department Education (CDE)
California Energy Commission (CEC)
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
Collaborative for High Performing Schools (CHPS)