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Carroll County Public Schools purchases air purifiers for COVID mitigation as more kids return

Carroll County Public Schools recently purchased air purifiers as well as other items to help with COVID-19 mitigation in preparation for students returning to the classroom at least four days a week.

After the board voted to return students to full-time learning, concerns were raised about social distancing and staffing. The system’s revised return plan states social distancing cannot always be guaranteed. But efforts to mitigate have been made through the purchase and implementation of air purifiers, Plexiglas and personal protective equipment.

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Before the board discussed its purchases, a couple teachers, and a student, suggested the board make a few changes prior to student’s return.

Tony Roman, a teacher at Manchester Valley High School, spoke during citizen participation at last week’s school board meeting about the need for air purifiers, Plexiglas protection and personal protective equipment for the classroom. Celeste Jordan, a teacher at Winters Mill High School, called for board meetings to be open to the public again since schools are open to more students. And Bella Tough, a student, asked for the class size list CCPS started providing to also include classrooms that have less than 16 people in it so families can better decide whether to allow students to attend in-person learning. She, as well as Roman and Jordan, expressed concern for social distancing.

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Friendship Valley Elementary School Principal Betsy Cunningham, left, walks Lila and Kane Harvey into the building after the kindergartener and fourth-grader were dropped off for their first day back to school in person in a year Monday, March 15, 2021. A year into the pandemic, elementary Schools in Carroll County are beginning in-person instruction four days per week.
Friendship Valley Elementary School Principal Betsy Cunningham, left, walks Lila and Kane Harvey into the building after the kindergartener and fourth-grader were dropped off for their first day back to school in person in a year Monday, March 15, 2021. A year into the pandemic, elementary Schools in Carroll County are beginning in-person instruction four days per week. (Dylan Slagle)

Students started returning to the building for at least four days a week starting with special education students in February. Elementary students had the option to return for four days starting Monday and middle and high school students will get their chance starting March 22.

During the March 10 meeting, the board spoke about some of their mitigation strategies and the fiscal impact.

A report showed $1.4 million was spent on 1,650 air purifiers and filters and $456,812 was spent on air filtration systems for the health suites and isolation rooms. The report states $755,032 was spent on personal protective equipment and $127,278 was spent on Plexiglas barriers and signage.

Superintendent Steve Lockard said these were one-time expenditures. He said it’s important for the public to understand the money they receive from the state and federal government have plans and are being spent to help students and the system.

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Jon O’Neal, chief operating officer, said they have been talking about what mitigation strategies could be implemented for a while. He said a webinar by the Maryland Department of Health on air quality confirmed that CCPS has been operating appropriately at the building system level. They make sure to have as much air inside the building as possible and that every unit has the highest grade filter.

The air purifier unit they selected has been considered by other school systems like Frederick and it handles all of the classrooms. It was purchased from a company called Medify Air.

The MA-112 air purifier from Medify Air was purchased by Carroll County Public Schools in bulk as students return to in-person classes for four days a week.
The MA-112 air purifier from Medify Air was purchased by Carroll County Public Schools in bulk as students return to in-person classes for four days a week.

Ray Prokop, director of facilities management, said the units last for about a year and a half before the filters need to be replaced. He added they ordered replacement filters for next school year and noted they are straightforward to use.

“This is a real positive purchase for all of our classrooms and not a lot has been said about it,” Board president Marsha Herbert said. “This is a biggie.”

Prokop said Monday the air purifiers have not yet arrived but are expected to be distributed to classrooms by the end of this week.

Board member Patricia Dorsey mentioned Roman’s comment about PPE and asked Lockard to address it.

Lockard said staff members should contact their principals if they do not have enough PPE “because we have plenty of it.”

Dorsey also asked about opening board meetings to the public. Lockard said he was recently speaking to Ed Singer, county health officer, about occupancy and will bring it to the board in the next few weeks.

For the class size report, Karl Streaker, director of student services, said in an email “there are no plans to expand the report” to include classes with less than 16 people.

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