As STEM School Highlands Ranch concludes 2020, staff continues to implement and install COVID-19 countermeasures, in part, thanks to CARES Act funding. The additional funding is allowing for STEM to increase the health-safety of the school, both inside and out, and improve the air quality within the building.
And ensuring that the air is safe within the school is a top priority for STEM. Already, there has been a lot of improvements made to the HVAC system during the Summer of 2020, including a complete cleaning of the units, installation of high grade filters for each unit, and an added system that allows for the air within the building to cycle out at a much faster rate than before. Those improvements that have already been made exceed the standards set by the Douglas County School District.
However, STEM officials are looking ahead to making even greater changes in the near future to the HVAC system.
“We’re right now trying to get to the point where we can optimize the ventilation system, increase ventilation wherever possible.” Said Robert Hoornstra, STEM Chief Operating Officer.
Hoornstra says there are 10 HVAC units on the school’s roof that are going to be replaced entirely. Each unit provides ventilation to approximately two STEM classrooms. As each unit is replaced, it will be transformed from a manually operating system, to digital controls. That means, ventilation throughout the building will be easily accessible and controlled from computers monitored by school staff.
“So far, yes, I’m satisfied with how it’s gone,” Hoornstra said.
And for all of the work that is happening on the roof, there is just as much happening down below within the walls of the school, where many improvements have been made in recent weeks.
Entering the main lobby at STEM, there are high-speed touchless temperature check stations, and touchless hand sanitizing stations. Check-in at the registration desk includes two newly added exterior computer monitors to allow for visitors to check-in without having to directly interact with staff. Also, there are now two spaces inside the building designated as quarantine rooms. One of those rooms can be found in the Secondary building, where a sick student can safely quarantine while being monitored remotely by staff using newly installed video surveillance cameras. The other quarantine room can be found in the Elementary building.
STEM has also added PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) items including face shields and masks for students and staff, additional custodians to clean throughout the day, extra staff to cover classes during quarantine periods, outdoor tables for lunchtime to maintain social distancing, signage and visual cues for distancing, cleaning products for teachers to use, additional instructional materials to avoid sharing, trifold barriers to help with separation, large orders of laptops and cameras to support hybrid learners, and extra program and product licenses to support the heavy virtual demand.
STEM officials continue to work with staff to identify additional areas where remaining CARES Act funding can be utilized. All of the school’s improvements, are designed to create the safest learning environment possible heading into 2021.
To see the improvements for yourself, see the featured video below.