Widespread school closings, like we’ve seen through the COVID-19 pandemic, create long-term individual and societal costs. It is in the best interest of children and families for schools to remain open. To do that, every effort must be made to keep children healthy.
In the last year, we have learned a great deal about preventing COVID-19 transmission with in-person instruction. The delta variant now challenges us to make use of every layer of prevention. The good news is that children are at a lower risk than adults and there is a new body of evidence that shows that kids can be kept safe at school with a holistic, multi-layered plan to reduce exposure, limit transmission and respond to outbreaks.
This fall, how can schools prioritize risk reduction measures for COVID-19?
We spoke with Harvard researcher and exposure science expert Joseph Allen and East Syracuse Minoa School Superintendent Donna DeSiato to describe the most valuable strategies and how they can be effectively implemented in schools, even with limited budgets and staff.
Read Dr. Allen’s guest essay in the New York Times, The Hard Covid-19 Questions We’re Not Asking.
Dr. Allen is an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, with John Macomber at Harvard Business School. He began his career conducting forensic health investigations of sick buildings in several hundred buildings across a diverse range of industries, including healthcare, biotechnology, education, commercial office real estate and manufacturing. At Harvard, Dr. Allen directs the Healthy Buildings Program
where he led the creation of ‘The 9 Foundations of a Healthy Building’. To drive research into practice, he works with Fortune 100 companies on implementing Healthy Building strategies in their global portfolios. He earned his Doctor of Science (DSc) and Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees from the Boston University School of Public Health, and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Biology from Boston College.
Dr. Donna J. DeSiato, Superintendent, East Syracuse Minoa Central School District
Dr. Donna DeSiato, a respected leader in the field of public education, proudly serves as superintendent of the East Syracuse Minoa Central School District since 2005. She has previously served as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Services, Director of Elementary Education, principal, vice principal, instructional specialist and teacher in the Syracuse City School District. Dr. DeSiato’s professional experiences include building, district and state level leadership in building collaborative partnerships, strategic planning and leading systemic transformation in learning. ESM is recognized for developing a broad array of career pathways including innovative STEM learning models in partnership with business and higher education with Siemens, King & King Architects, SUNY ESF, LeMoyne College, Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College, along with the study of the development of pharmaceutical drugs through RχeSearch: An Educational Journey supported by Bristol Myers Squibb. Most recently in 2018-19, ESM launched the first Aviation Career Pathway High School Courses in New York State and the ESM Spartan Academy as one of 19 Early College High Schools in New York State. In 2013 the District was awarded the “Be the Change for Kids Innovation Award” by the Nanoscale College of Science and Engineering and New York State School Board Association and in 2015 ESM was recognized nationally at the White House as one of the first STEM Learning Ecosystems. Dr. DeSiato is a Trustee at Onondaga Community College, President of the Syracuse University Study Council and serves on the Executive Committee of the New York State Council of School Superintendents and the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority. Dr. DeSiato was awarded the 2015 Margaret Ashida STEM Leadership Award by the New York State STEM Education Collaborative, the STEM Woman of the Year Award by the CNY STEM Hub in 2016 and the STEM Outreach Individual of the Year 2020 Award by TACNY. She is highly regarded in education and in the business community for her leadership in innovative learning models and preparing graduates for our global society.
Dr. Eric A. Schiff,
Interim Executive Director, SyracuseCoE and Professor of Physics, Syracuse University
As SyracuseCoE director for the last year, Eric Schiff has been working on ways to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the community. He has many years of experience as a physics professor, a semiconductor and solar cell researcher, a university and government administrator, and an industry consultant. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.