Deerfield schools will soon take part in a COVID-19 air monitoring study involving Thermo Fisher Scientific, that has offices in Madison and Fitchburg.
Superintendent Michelle Jensen told the school board on Sept. 13 that small devises the size of a toaster will be set up in areas like the high school common and elementary school cafeteria where there is both high traffic and where students take off their face masks to eat lunch.
She said cartridges in the devices will be replaced daily and shipped to a lab, where they’ll be analyzed to discern the level of airborne COVID-19 particles in the room.
Jensen said the school district will have online access to the resulting data and said no one should be surprised when it likely shows a concentration of particles in the air.
“It’s likely that Covid particles are everywhere,” Jensen said. “This is like glitter out of a bottle. The question is how much glitter do you have?”
Jensen said the ultimate purpose of the study, that will last for 30 days, is to see if efforts like mask wearing are protecting occupants of buildings, despite the presence of the airborne virus. It will hopefully show whether masks are reducing that, she said.
Jensen said results of the study, that is also being done in other locations, will help guide long-term mitigation decisions.
She said one exciting aspect is that Deerfield High School’s advanced chemistry class will be involved in the monitoring and will have a chance to explore the data.
Jensen also told the board that the Deerfield schools have seen a “significant increase” in recent weeks in COVID-19 cases among students and staff as the delta variant continues to circulate.
However, Jensen said contact tracing has not tied any spread back to the schools.
She said those who are quarantined have access to online platforms like Seesaw and Canvas, and she said class disruption has been minimal.
She said students are hearing “a lot of reminders” about how to properly wear a face mask, which is required indoors.
“We know our best mitigation strategy is wearing a face covering,” she said.
Jensen noted that face masks will be required at the Oct. 2 high school Homecoming dance, which will be indoors.