Chaffee County’s two school districts, Buena Vista School District and Salida School District have announced coordinated plans for the reopening of schools in a few weeks. The reopening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic known as COVID-19 is no easy matter. In addition to the human precautions, the districts are looking at deploying some high tech help.
The superintendents of both districts have expressed the passionate belief that students need to learn in in-person environments as much as possible. Their efforts have been focused on phased plans; each beginning in what is called the “green zone”, with in-person classes. News of these decisions has prompted questions from parents and the community regarding safety measures. Both districts have responded with reassuring news.
Earlier this week, an Ark Valley Voice story about the reopening elicited some reader questions on whether the schools are going to incorporate high tech solutions to protect students, teachers, and school support staff.
Specifically, readers asked if those efforts would include improvements to the school ventilation systems, or UV light installations; two safety measures that pubic health sources say reduce the chance of virus spread and disinfect microscopic virus on surfaces.
“The Buena Vista School District is in process of acquiring and installing ventilation systems (UV and ionized systems) that have demonstrated disinfecting both on surfaces and airborne,” responded BV Superintendant Lisa Yates. “We believe these are strong additions to our mitigation practices.”
Asked the same question, the Salida School District shared a letter that went out to parents on Wednesday, July 29, saying:
“Last night the Salida School Board approved the purchase of HVAC filter improvements that will retrofit HEPA filters to block 95 percent of viral particles to include COVID19. Our maintenance department at the Salida School District also uses electrostatic wands to disinfect surfaces. We are proud of the processes and improvements we can implement.”
Both superintendents say that they and their staff have spent many hours listening to their communities, holding parent listening sessions, conducting one-on-one conversations, consulting with Chaffee County Public Health, checking in with their state educational counterparts, working tirelessly to develop a plan that creates a safe atmosphere for students and community today. Their coordinated plans include a phased approach to be prepared to take swift action to adapt to this reality: the school year could become a changing environment.
Both say that they understand that schools are at the heart of the community and that keeping students safe and schools running also underlies the economic fabric of Chaffee County.
“Basically, schools set the rhythm of the community,” said Salida Superintendant David Blackburn during recent Chaffee County COVID-19 Roundtable meetings. “We know that.”
Both districts hope to have the technology in place as early in the school year as possible.