HVAC System and Safety Protocols at SHS

By: Sarah Yi — Editor-in-Chief

Now that staff and students are physically back in school, many questions about the HVAC system and safety protocols at Sharon High School have yet to be addressed.

History teacher and president of the STA Ms. Bernadette Murphy is concerned about the HVAC system in the high school. “The vents in my room are caked with dust and grime,” said Murphy. She says when she holds a tissue up to the vent, nothing happens. “But maybe it really does work? I just do not know,” Murphy added. 

Murphy said that if needed by students, teachers can be available until 3 P.M for extra help. Throughout the day, Murphy sprays the desks as the students wipe them. “Windows are left open all the time and my students wear their jackets,” said Murphy. In addition, six feet distance is maintained as often as possible. 

History teacher Ms. Dorothy Macoritto says her issue with the HVAC system is that the rooms she teaches in were not part of the initial HVAC assessment, so she has no way of knowing whether or not they are functioning well. 

“I am in room 707 which is a modular classroom. I am particularly concerned about that room as the HVAC representative specifically questioned the safety of temporary classrooms,” said Macoritto. 

“All fall we have been asking and have been told that the rooms are fine, but there has been no proof, and it does not appear that any check was done,” she added. As of October 12, 2020, Macoritto says she found out the superintendent is sending the ENE inspectors to check those rooms on Thursday, October 14. 

Director of Facilities Mr. Tony Kopacz says buildings are cleaned regularly during the week by the school custodial staff. However, an outside contractor deep cleans the schools on Wednesdays.

“Since the school department brought in ENE to look at the systems, we have been working on the issues that have been found in the ENE report,” said Kopacz. He adds that the school follows the DESE and maintains all safety protocols based on their guidance. 

History teacher Ms. Courtney Malcolm says her room is in a newer part of the building and therefore she is luckier than most. “For me, the HVAC seems to be fine, but I certainly don’t like going into the faculty restrooms or faculty lounge knowing that the system is too old to be repaired,” added Malcolm.

She says everyone should be working remotely as we head into Thanksgiving and Christmas. “Teachers won’t be able to see their families if we have to quarantine upon our return, whereas students have the option of taking their classes remotely,” said Malcolm. Malcolm adds how there will be fewer opportunities to go outside for mask breaks as the weather grows cold.

Macoritto says the staff has been told repeatedly that everything in the building is working. “But the reports we have been shown still only say that 25-50% of the building has been inspected, and of that, much has not been fixed,” she said. As of now, Macoritto is keeping her windows open to ensure that there is fresh air circulating in her classroom.

To prevent students from taking off their masks in the building, Murphy says students should not eat lunch in the building. “All students should be sent home at 1-1:30 pm and bag lunches should be provided on their way out the door,” she said. 

Similar to Murphy, Macoritto says she would like to see students go home for lunch. “As it gets cold, it will become more and more unsafe as large groups of unmasked students gather in the cafeteria,” Macoritto said. 

She adds how she’d like to see more administrative presence in the hallways during passing time to ensure that students and teachers are following the arrows. “The whole one-way system only works if we actually do it,” said Macoritto.

Macoritto understands that regular testing for anyone who enters the building is expensive, though it is the best assurance. “The health and safety checks we are supposed to be doing before entering the building also appear to me to be futile, as no one is being stopped before entering the building, and coronavirus is often asymptomatic,” she added. 

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