SCHOOLS STRUGGLE WITH REOPENING AMID PANDEMIC SURGE
the U.S. as a result of the highly contagious Delta variant, school
districts nationwide are moving quickly to implement public-health
precautions in preparation for fall reopenings.
pressures that school districts around the country are under to
reopen amid growing concerns that many students have struggled
to keep up academically during months of virtual learning. That
pressure only intensified with the recent guidance the federal Centers for Disease Control issued urging schools to fully reopen in the fall, even if they are unable to put in place all the precautions needed to contain the coronavirus.
classroom layouts. The concerns are particularly acute in school districts serving low-income Black and Latino communities that were among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
that found low-income students, including Blacks and Latinos, are
forced to learn in “low-quality school facilities” that are poorly
maintained. The commission concluded that the situation poses a threat to the health of students.
with at least 75 percent of students receiving subsidized lunches –
operate in buildings whose average age is nearly 50 years old, according to the most recent data available. Experts say that these schools have had problems with air quality long before the pandemic struck.
creatively, to field-test a variety of safety measures, protocols, and
equipment. In the process, these schools are providing something of a roadmap for other districts scrambling to safely reopen.
with local campaigns that encourage community vaccination for all who are eligible. Others are leveraging innovative technology – including robots designed to identify and kill the Covid-19 and other viruses and germs -- to clean and disinfect classrooms. And some are even teaming up with design professionals who are exploring ideas on how to revamp classroom layouts and other spaces in the age of Covid.
school leaders organized a pop-up vaccination event at 15 schools
in the district, teamed up with ride-hailing service Lyft to provide
free transportation to the sites, and successfully vaccinated more than 3,000 people. Philadelphia’s school district, whose student population totals more than 200,000, has taken a similar approach, launching a Philly Teen Vaxx campaign to encourage students to be inoculated.
addressing the dangers posed by Covid-19. They are also assessing the overall health and safety of their buildings, many of them in need of an overhaul to create conditions that promote learning and creativity.
and other shared spaces,” said Paul Scialla, founder of the International Well Building Institute (IWBI), a company that uses scientific- based approaches to designing buildings that promote the health and well-being of occupants. “This is an opportunity for many schools to address the immediate concerns stemming from the pandemic as well as the long-term health and safety of the school’s shared spaces.”
communities throughout the country to ensure students, teachers and faculty can safely return to full-time, in-person learning. The IWBI is reviewing the health and safety protocols against the high standards of its WELL Health Safety Rating. Those standards were developed by over 600 health and public space experts to provide the guidance needed for organizations to improve indoor health and safety.
Some of the schools that have achieved the WELL Health-Safety
Rating include the Fairfax County, Virginia school district, where
administrators collaborated with the IWBI to help safeguard against
Covid-19 throughout its 219 school facilities, as well as the Upper St. Clair School District, located in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
Living Lab in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and the University
of Minnesota, air filtration systems can add an extra safeguard that
limits the aerosol spread of viral particles. The researchers built
an experimental classroom and observed how adding portable air
purifiers to a classroom may result in up to five times lower particle
concentrations in the air throughout the entire room. The study
also observed that adding portable air purifiers provided a significant reduction in the rate at which infectious particles deposit on surfaces compared to using an HVAC system (with MERV filtration).
School districts are responding to this breadth of research on particle transmission by investing in air filtrations systems. For example, the New York City Department of Education purchased over 100,000 portable air purification units from the leading wellness technology company, Delos.
and are particularly focused on low-income, minority populations
that have been ravaged by thepandemic.
their plate. We hope that the WELL Health-Safety Rating will give students, parents and communities at large the peace of mind they need to fully return to the classroom.”
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