Updated: Sep 11
Helping schools find funding is one way school indoor air quality (IAQ) advocates can build goodwill and make the goal of clean school air a reality.
For California school IAQ advocates, the California Schools Healthy Air, Plumbing, and Efficiency (CalSHAPE) Program is an important funding source to know about. More than $182 million worth of IAQ-related grants have been awarded to date, and more than $235 million in additional funds are now available, with grant applications due May 31, 2024.
Even for those in other states, CalSHAPE offers a possible model for future legislation.
What Is CalSHAPE?
In fall 2020, the California Legislature authorized CalSHAPE under Assembly Bill No. 841, finding that it was “vitally needed to protect the health, safety, and ability to learn for California’s school children and the health of California’s teachers.”
Administered by the California Energy Commission, the program offers a stream of funding to “assess, maintain, and repair ventilation systems in schools.”
Local educational agencies (LEAs), including school districts, charter schools, and regional occupational centers, may apply for first-phase funding to
assess existing school HVAC systems,
adjust ventilation rates,
replace filters (using MERV 13 or better filters where feasible),
install CO2 monitors in each classroom, and
perform some repairs, upgrades, or replacements.
Under a separate track, LEAs may even apply through CalSHAPE for reimbursement of certain HVAC projects already completed, if contracted and performed after August 1, 2020.
At the end of the first phase, grantees must submit HVAC assessment and verification reports with information about their systems and the work completed, documentation of any “system deficiencies,” and “recommendations for additional maintenance, replacement, or upgrades to improve energy efficiency, safety, or performance” (California Public Utilities Code §§ 1626-1627).
Some grantees then become eligible to apply for additional second-phase “upgrade and repair” funding.
CalSHAPE grants were initially limited to schools in underserved communities, then opened to all eligible California schools in August 2022.
By the end of 2022, the energy commission had awarded 340 IAQ-related grants totaling nearly $183 million.
Where Do CalSHAPE Funds Come From?
CalSHAPE is primarily funded by monies from the energy efficiency budgets of California’s large public electric and gas investor-owned utilities. Funds from a given utility must be used within its service territory. The program will run until December 1, 2026, when unused funds will be returned to the utilities.
An additional $20 million was added from the Budget Act of 2022’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) for replacement of HVAC systems in CalSHAPE’s second phase.
Could Your California School District Be Eligible for CalSHAPE Funds?
The California Energy Commission recently began accepting grant applications for a fifth round of CalSHAPE funding. Applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. on May 31, 2024. There are $235.5 million in total funds available this round.
The energy commission has generated a list of schools identified as generally eligible for CalSHAPE grants. Please note that this list includes some schools that have already been awarded funds. However, only about 25 percent of eligible LEAs had applied for CalSHAPE grants as of the end of 2022.
Actions to Take
If you’re a California IAQ advocate, inquire if your school district has already applied for or been awarded CalSHAPE funds. The energy commission has a public spreadsheet listing LEAs to which it has sent a notice of proposed award (NOPA). You may also find relevant information online on your board of education’s electronic records site, by searching board agendas, agenda items, meeting minutes, resolutions, etc. Or, contact your district superintendent, maintenance director, or a similar district-level administrator.
Then, if your school district hasn’t been awarded funds under CalSHAPE, provide district administrators and/or board members with information about the program and encourage them to apply.
If your school district has already been awarded CalSHAPE funds, figure out which schools will be affected and what implementation plan is in place.
Staying on top of the CalSHAPE implementation process can be useful for at least four reasons. First, you can advocate for timely implementation. Second, documentation generated for CalSHAPE, notably HVAC assessment and verification reports, can offer valuable information about IAQ in your school district. Third, if deficiencies are identified during the first-phase process, you will want to make sure your school district follows through in applying for second-phase “upgrade and repair” funding. Finally, you may want to advocate for your school district to build on its work under CalSHAPE and take additional steps to improve IAQ.
CalSHAPE, a Possible Model for Other States?
Even if you’re not in California, CalSHAPE may offer a potential model for your state.
To see how the California Legislature enabled funds from utilities’ energy efficiency budgets to be directed toward school IAQ improvements, and designated how those funds would be used, see the final law, California Public Utilities Code §§ 1620-1627.
Legislative history for the underlying Assembly Bill No. 841 is also available.
Supporters of the legislation authorizing CalSHAPE included union, HVAC industry, environmental, and asthma advocacy groups. Organizations like these might be potential school IAQ allies in your state.
Where to Find Out More about CalSHAPE?
For more information about CalSHAPE, consider starting with the following:
CalSHAPE main website,
Notice of Funding Availability, with current grant application instructions, and
General inquiries about CalSHAPE can be directed to: CalSHAPE@energy.ca.gov.
To receive email updates about CalSHAPE, visit the California Energy Commission’s Subscriptions page.
JuNelle Harris is a school IAQ advocate located in California and a member of Indoor Air Care Advocates. You can contact her about this blog post or other California school IAQ issues at email@example.com.