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Syracuse City School District will be ready for students on Monday, officials say

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)
Students who return to class in the Syracuse City School District will sit at desks surrounded by a plastic shield

The Syracuse City School District will open its doors to students and staff next week, to kick off a hybrid model of instruction that mixes remote and in-school learning.  It will be a shift from the total remote learning that’s been going on in recent weeks.

Students in the Syracuse City School District are currently getting lessons from teachers via school-provided Chromebooks. Starting October 5, many of those kids will be learning from behind special plastic coated wellness guards at desks spaced in six foot intervals. 

Van Duyn Elementary School Principal Eva Williams said all children will get temperatures checked before heading to classrooms. Reminders to wash hands and wear masks are everywhere, and no personal items will be intermingling.

"On the floors are little baskets to keep student's things separate," Williams said. "We don’t want coats in closets touching each other. Every student will put coats and things in bins, and these are things we can spray down."

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Two air purifiers will be installed in each classroom in the district.

One of the biggest safety measures installed in every room, are air purifiers that knock out 99.99% of airborne particles, including COVID-19. The district is buying 2,500 systems from HealthWay, a company based in Pulaski.

HealthWay CEO Vincent Lobdell said the district will install two air purifiers in each classroom in the district.

"This is an extra step that is taken to increase the air exchange and reduce the particle load, which one would assume would reduce the likelihood of capturing COVID," Lobdell said.

Syracuse Superintendent Jaime Alicea said these safety measures are not cheap.

"Between all the shields that we have in the classrooms, and air purifiers and all that is going to be about a million dollars," Alicea said. "But the health and safety of the kids and staff is priority number one from the board and myself."

The district has been getting some pushback from the Syracuse teacher's union, suggesting it wouldn’t be able to get all the classrooms in 35 buildings ready for students by Monday. Alicea said the district is spending the next week installing air purifiers and getting everything else in place for students to come to class.

"I feel that we’re ready to start next week," he said. "And I hope that when they see this they’ll realize that the district is committed to their health and safety."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.