Cistercian’s Coronavirus Plan: A Conversation with Mr. Parker
March 26, 2021
Across the country, a large majority of schools have struggled with keeping the threat of COVID-19 at bay. Here at the Informer, we interviewed the Director of Facilities, Mr. Parker, regarding our school’s coronavirus safety policies.
Why in your opinion has our school been more successful than others in the metroplex at keeping the coronavirus at bay?
The simple answer is we are blessed with so many things. We are blessed with parents and alumni that have helped and consulted with the school from day one. When it became clear that this was primarily an airborne virus, we realized that the safest path to getting students back on campus, which was a priority for us from May on, was to really do all we could to mitigate the viral loads in the air. That meant, for sure, compliance with masking, and even making sure we were wearing the right kinds of masks and wearing them properly, and then taking the HVHC measures. We did not just improve the filtration, we went to the highest filtration system our equipment could handle, which is called Merv-13, so that is just more effective at removing small particles. But then the big measure we took was adding the bipolar ionization to really all the school buildings, including parts of the gym, but certainly all the learning spaces, and that has proven effective for several years now on viruses. It’s now specifically been proven to work on COVID, to render harmless the viruses, but also increase the rate at which they are filtered out of the air.
Did the school expect this level of success where we’ve been able to minimize the amount of days spent online?
No, we prayed it would go as well it has, but I don’t think anyone knew. We knew it was important to get back to school. We knew we had to do all that we at least could within reason to make it as safe as possible, but if you would have told me that our first case at all would have not happened until November, I would have been ecstatic. Sitting here in February to not have a single case of transmission in the classrooms, so far, I am thrilled beyond words, not only because everyone has been able to stay safe, but it also means we’ve been able to have as close to a normal school experience as possible. Even though it certainly doesn’t feel normal, compared to so many other places in the country that are still at home completely learning online, I think we are so lucky to have had it go as well as it has, and I humbly pray and hope that it continues to be good for us.
How far into the future do you see the school keeping these precautions in place?
I hesitate to say. I think we learned that eating outside is actually nice, and that the students enjoy it most days, but I don’t think that the next year we would have to eat outside on a bad weather day. I think that having the luxury of being able to eat outside would be something we would benefit from for a long time. The outdoor furniture was expensive, but we bought it because we wanted to benefit from it for a long time. The bipolar ionization just cleans the air. Even without COVID, it still removes things that cause odor. It removes . . . viruses. The thing that students will notice the most in terms of back to normal is the masks, sports, and the social events. I think that those will be much closer to normal already [by] next school year, but I hesitate to say how much.