STEM School Highlands Ranch has taken a nested approach to keep students and staff safe in the midst of a global pandemic. Of the two cases where STEM has had to quarantine, there has not been a spread of the virus within the school. The few cases have been from exposure from external sources.
The simple steps are critical: hand washing/ hand sanitizer, mask wearing to cover mouth AND nose, staying home with any of the symptoms especially lack of taste of smell (the most critical symptom), not touching the face, especially eyes, and keeping distanced.
It is a community pact that has kept STEM open. STEM families are all doing their part to keep the entire student body and staff healthy.
- The extra costs to fortify the school have been substantial. Some of significant costs are:
- Hand sanitizer stations throughout the school and in classrooms
- PPE for students and staff readily available
- Extra custodians to clean throughout the day
- Extra staff to cover classes during quarantine periods
- Outdoor tables for lunchtime to maintain distance
- Upgrade of the HVAC system over the summer
- Moving the HVAC system to automation using the bid provided and vetted by DCSD
- Installation of emergency quarantine rooms when students feel sick at school
- Touchless high speed temperature check for all who enter the campus
- Signage and visual cues for distancing
- Trifold barriers for specific applications
- Instructional support such as cameras and other technology for STEM’s faculty
- Extra program/product licenses for the heavy virtual demand
- Large orders for laptops and other devices to support hybrid learners
- Tremendous need for instructional materials to avoid sharing (K-12 to include K-5 manipulatives and readers to grades 6-12 science and engineering materials)
- Many more items that our staff continually identify as a “COVID-related” need
Thankfully, the federal government funded these unexpected and previously unfunded needs through the CARES Act. While we have used those funds wisely, we are continuously working with our teachers and staff to identify additional areas where we can use the remaining funds.
As a DCSD-authorized charter school, all of the expenditures for the CARES Act are submitted to the district for approval and reimbursement. Not all expenses submitted are approved as the guidelines are extremely prescriptive.
As neighboring school districts move to virtual only, STEM is determined to remain open to the best of its abilities through massive community cooperation and the critical support of the CARES Act to maximize safety and access. STEM’s school nurse closely monitors multiple channels of communication to expertly advise us on trends and the latest recommendations.
We know students need to be in school. Thank you to each member of our community of 5,000 for doing your part. Some days it feels like a miracle and some days it is just hard work. I am in awe of our faculty and staff as they find the strength and courage to be their best in the most challenging time of their life.
In a season of Thanksgiving, I am truly grateful for the STEM community that is holding strong. In reflection, I believe we all lean on each other through a legacy of STEMStrong.
Let’s keep our doors open!
P.J. Eucker PhD