HEADLINES

Small Private School Shows How Pandemic-Safe In-Person Instruction Can Be Done

Longview School submitted its re-opening plan both to the NY State Department of Education and the Department of Health this week.  The full text of the re-opening plan is available here and on the Longview School website. As a 30-student, K-12 school located in a nearly 10,000 square foot building, Longview is in a far better position than the much larger public or private schools.  Mark Jacobs, Longview School co-founder and Director stated:  “Whereas so many schools will necessarily expose students to hundreds of points of contact with other people every day, Longview is different.  Since we have as many students in the entire school as some schools have in one classroom, our whole school is like one cohort group and points of contact can be kept to a minimum.”

Most people were unfamiliar with the idea of cohort groups a year ago, but this term is now being used by politicians and school administrators to describe a system of grouping intended to keep points of contact for students low.  According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a cohort is a band or a group although the term derives from a division of a Roman legion; it is now being applied to subsets of students.  “In a public school, a cohort might include half of their 800 students who come in on alternate days.  At Longview, by dividing our students into two cohorts, K-5 and 6-12, we will have two discrete groupings in separate spaces in the school which means they will not be able to pass germs from one group to the other,” Jacobs continued.

Longview has consciously designed its newly renovated building to provide separation for students within cohorts.  “Maintaining social distancing is much easier when your typical classes range in size from 2-6 students.  We have 9 classrooms for 30 students, not to mention a gym/theatre, lounge, and ample outdoor space, including a newly built deck.  Safety is literally built into our campus.”

Social distancing is only one of the many measures the Longview re-opening plan covers.  As required by the state, the plan lays out details regarding daily screening and temperature checks, promoting healthy hygiene practices, including the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), supporting the mental and emotional health of students and staff, managing ill persons, and systematizing daily cleaning.  

Longview has purchased Gen-Eon Technologies Rapid Response System.  This uses a mineral electrolyte U.S. EPA-registered broad-spectrum disinfectant system with hypochlorous acid as the active ingredient, a substance that is completely safe for humans but kills viruses like COVID-19 on contact.  According to GenEon, their “On-Site Generator (OSG) creates cleaning, degreasing and sanitizing solutions from minerals, water and electricity using a technology called electrochemical activation (ECA). Here's how it works. One of the natural minerals that GenEon uses as a catalyst is salt. Salt is a compound composed of sodium and chloride. Sodium ions are positively charged and chloride ions are negatively charged. GenEon Onsite Generators expose these ions to a low electrical charge. The positive side of the charge electrochemically converts the chloride ion (Cl) to hypochlorous acid (HOCl), which is a powerful sanitizer.”

Although it sounds a little like science fiction, this disinfectant has been around since the 1950’s and is used in hospital operating rooms, nursing homes, and now, at Longview School.  As deadly as it is to viruses, it is safe for humans; one of the GenEon employees says he regularly sprays the cleaner in his mouth during presentations to show just how non-toxic it is.  The EPA concurs that HOCl is a safe and effective disinfectant.

“Longview will use the disinfectant solution in electrostatic foggers that will be operated between classes and at the end of each school day.  This, in combination with an ultraviolet light HVAC filtration system, will ensure that any germs and viruses, COVID-19 included, will be repeatedly eliminated throughout the day,” said Mr. Jacobs.

While all of these measures are significant, the Longview plan does not stop at doing temperature checks, disinfecting, and maintaining social distancing.  The school is also installing numerous plexiglass barriers that will be able to work in conjunction with face coverings to keep everyone safe.  Mr. Jacobs said, “We realize that student emotional health requires mask breaks in school, and our social distancing measures combined with plexiglass shields and frequent cleaning will make this possible.  Of course, school will feel different during the pandemic, but we also recognize the importance of creating a feeling of normality.  Overall, the students will be able to have a fairly typical school year, with many of the safety precautions not interfering with their experience of school.”  Along these lines, the school is supporting community members in obtaining not just cloth masks, but also clear masks that allow facial expressions to be visible.  

Although Longview will be opening for in-person instruction in September, they will also offer an at-home option.  “Not all families will be ready to send their children back into a school building no matter how many safety measures are put in place, and we respect that decision.  As a result, Longview is implementing a hybrid program,” said Jacobs.  The school will be livestreaming classes over Zoom so that at-home students will be able to participate in the same classes at the same time as their classmates in the building.  “Varied options for varied needs--that is the basis of our educational approach, so it is no surprise that it is how we are supporting the community during the pandemic,” asserted Mr. Jacobs.

Longview still has spots available for the fall in a number of age groupings.  The school is conducting tours each week.  Mr. Jacobs concluded:  “We expect that some families who are uncomfortable sending their children back to schools with hundreds in the building will be looking for alternatives.  We are committed to being a safe option for all of our students and staff.”

Longview School is a non-profit private school located in the Village of Brewster, New York.  For more information about their program, the school website is www.longviewschool.org.

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